I am horrible at giving compliments. It's like compliments are a completely different language, and I'm just taking my first year classes. My instructors are Russell Brand and Craig Ferguson, and my textbook is the Song of Solomon. At this point, you might think that I'm confusing compliments with flirting, and maybe I am, but I also feel like the only real difference between the two is the motive, or desired outcome. Otherwise, they both have the same set of qualities: positive remarks toward the recipient as a means to generate conversation.
I think that's why I'm not naturally good at complimenting; I rarely have the desire to start a conversation. I resonate with Ron Swanson in his memorable quote, "The less I know about other people's affairs, the happier I am. I'm not interested in caring about people. I once worked with a guy for three years and never learned his name. Best friend I ever had. We still never talk sometimes." But, I'm not Ron Swanson; I do (unfortunately) need to talk with people on occasion. Especially now, as I complete my undergraduate degree and move onto the next chapter of my life.
But I think the bigger reason why I can't compliment people well is because I can't receive compliments well, either. These are four ways I can receive a compliment, none of which are desirable.
1. As a sarcastic joke
This only happens if I'm trapped in a mental prison of self-depreciation or just under a lot of stress. I think a common example would be that popular meme, "WHAT ARE THOOOOOOSE?"
2. Awkwardly accept it
When I just accept a compliment, I feel a strange tension, which stems from embarrassment. And I'm not sure where the embarrassment comes from! I'm pretty sure it's just a natural reaction...maybe it's our body's natural balance to keep us humble?
Complimentary person: "You have such a nice smile!"
Me: "Ok…" *dies a little inside*
3. Awkwardly reject it
This really only happens if the compliment itself is rude or uncalled for. An example would be a compliment on a the size of a lady's…purse. But it could be that the speaker phrased the compliment in a strange way. Imagined scenario below:
Mildly creepy dude: "Your legs are amazing…"
Pretty woman: "Bug off, creep."
Mildly creepy dude: "I mean, you're so fast, my eyes could barely keep up with you."
Pretty woman: "Keep your eyes off me!"
Mildly creepy dude: "That's not what I meant! What should I do… I know! *sings* Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!"
State Farm Agent: *Poof* "Bad compliments? We got you covered."
Mildly creepy dude: "Sweet.
State Farm Agent: *Looks at Lady* Hey! You sure a fast. Keep it up, friend!"
Personally, I've never done this before, but I've heard stories of people mistakenly taking a compliment as a blunt come-on. The logic behind this type of reaction is absolutely fascinating. The intention is either a genuine compliment or flirtatious remark. If the intention is ambiguous, what is the better choice, assume the compliment is genuine and risk encouraging bad behavior, or assume the compliment is *cough* less than noble and risk looking like an idiot? I think most people would choose to risk the bad face than risk encouraging bad behavior.
4. Misunderstand it as inquiry for purchase
What I mean by this is that compliments can be misunderstood to be interest in an item, not the person, exactly. This only happens in compliments that are about objects, not on personalities or qualities. For example, a hilarious dialogue on the BBC comedy sitcom "IT Crowd" between a character, "Moss," and his co-worker:
Coworker:"I like your glasses."
Moss: "I'm afraid they're not for sale."
Moss: "Laugh all you want, they're still not for sale."
I suppose, at the end of the day, compliments are meant to encourage dialogue. There really isn't anything to be embarrassed about; I just have to hold my breath, and get through each human interaction with the hopes that it's positive and edifying.
Thank you for reading this article.
You are an amazing person. Absolutely amazing. And stunning, too. You are so beautiful! And I love your hairstyle. It's like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead!
Seriously though, good job on looking good.