[Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

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[Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by Guest on Sat Dec 06, 2014 10:41 pm

I was going to write this up yesterday when I was more frustrated about it but I decided to actually, y'know, think before I speak.

Does anyone else have trouble with compliments? Both giving and receiving? I mean, I don't even know where to start with either, because I know the trouble I have with both is inane.

Receiving them has always been tricky with self-esteem issues. My first instinct is to deflect them or (at one point I did this a little too much) ignore them if I could. Which is obviously impolite at best and being a huge dick at worst. And then there's my skewed perception of some compliments as well - I get a lot of neutral to positive comments on my lack of weight, which is a sore spot for me given I don't exactly like being a skinny as I am. It's hard to muster a thank you for comments on it anymore, I just fall right into deflection through self-deprecating humour.

Has anyone ever been on the receiving end of 'he/she must get all the guys/girls' when it exactly the opposite? This is irrational as hell, but it actually makes me angry to hear this. Well, frustrated is probably a better term. It's hard to say anything but the truth in this situation, which results in the 'Really?' incredulous reaction which, while I understand is coming from a position of either genuine disbelief or at least the wish to be nice is also frustrating.

I mean, I understand the demented logic going on in my head, right? I'd rather be right about being unlovable/ugly/[NEGATIVE TRAIT #34] than be shown to be wrong and have to be vulnerable. Knoowing that doesn't seem to be helping much. To be fair to myself, when it comes to receiving compliments, I have been improving. Sure, I can't say much more than a 'thank you' after being given one, but it';s better than being an asshole. But that's another thing - I felt really bad (and still do to lesser extent) when I started forcing myself to say 'thank you' to compliments. I can't even acknowledge other's praise of me without thinking I'm the arrogant asshole. How the hell does that even work?

When it comes to giving compliments, well, I think it's just shyness. There was little drips and drabs of giving compliments being awkward (especially women to men) on the Invisibility DNL article comments. I'm going to take solace in the fact that it seems a fair amount of people, even when wanting to compliment someone and in a socially acceptable way, shy away from being able to do so. But it's still so frustrating to be standing there, wanting to compliment someone on something awesome about them and you just lock up like a coward. It's the kind of thing that haunts me for days. I know no one else really 'saw' anything that I did awkwardly - the problem is that I know I chickened out of something that shouldn't be difficult at all and it kills me.

So, now that the rant is over... How do others take to and give compliments? Are you a big giver of compliments? Or, is it something you reserve for 'mold breaking' things?

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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by The Wisp on Sat Dec 06, 2014 10:59 pm

I can relate to you a lot on this. I struggle to take compliments (or even just vague friendliness sent my way) without deflecting them or just sending out a sort of blank "deer in headlights" look (which probably comes off as apathetic, and also rude). I'm not sure how to deal with that.

As with giving compliment, I struggle with that, too. Giving a compliment is a vulnerable place to put oneself in, because it shows that you admire something about somebody. I always worry about overdoing it and coming off as (platonically) creepy or clingy or weird. I probably shouldn't worry about that given my natural disposition is to be cagey, though.
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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by nearly_takuan on Sun Dec 07, 2014 1:31 am

I hope kleenestar doesn't mind me grabbing a comment she wrote back on Paging, 'cause I think it's practically perfect:

Jess wrote:"Thank you - what a thoughtful thing to say!" is one of my go-tos. It acknowledges that the other person was trying to be kind without requiring me to address whether I agree.




MapWater wrote:Receiving them has always been tricky with self-esteem issues. My first instinct is to deflect them or (at one point I did this a little too much) ignore them if I could. Which is obviously impolite at best and being a huge dick at worst. And then there's my skewed perception of some compliments as well - I get a lot of neutral to positive comments on my lack of weight, which is a sore spot for me given I don't exactly like being a skinny as I am. It's hard to muster a thank you for comments on it anymore, I just fall right into deflection through self-deprecating humour.

Yeah, comments on body shape are always really tricky. In high school and early college people (generally church-friends and relatives) kept telling me I had "the right build" for cross-country or that they wished they could keep the weight off as easily as I did (yay). At 19 I abruptly gained two inches and about thirty pounds (so I could no longer joke that I was literally a 98-pound weakling), but I was still fairly skinny.

Lately I've found that less direct remarks work a lot better, at least on me. A suggestive half-joke about me wearing a spandex costume next Halloween (as opposed to the shirt+vest+coat I was describing) felt way better than when other people try to use "skinny" or even "fit" as compliments (the latter might be partly because, while I know I look healthier and more filled-out than I did six years ago, I also know my strength has not improved greatly since then and my heart rate and blood pressure are worse—obviously not information available to the speaker, but it still gets in the way of accepting what is ultimately just an attempt to say something nice about my appearance).

MapWater wrote:Has anyone ever been on the receiving end of 'he/she must get all the guys/girls' when it exactly the opposite? This is irrational as hell, but it actually makes me angry to hear this. Well, frustrated is probably a better term. It's hard to say anything but the truth in this situation, which results in the 'Really?' incredulous reaction which, while I understand is coming from a position of either genuine disbelief or at least the wish to be nice is also frustrating.

Haven't heard that exact remark, but people do tend to express disbelief when the fact that I've never dated/kissed/whatever comes up. And yeah, not sure if they're trying to be nice or what, but it brings up more negative thoughts than positive. Ditto "a girl would be lucky to have you" claims. I have a relative who, any time she hears my phone beep, asks if it's my girlfriend calling, which...yeah. Thanksgiving this year was, as always, a constant barrage of things like this—which is exactly the reason I don't like the winter holidays or large family gatherings in general. (My sister and I make it tolerable for each other, at least.)

MapWater wrote:I mean, I understand the demented logic going on in my head, right? I'd rather be right about being unlovable/ugly/[NEGATIVE TRAIT #34] than be shown to be wrong and have to be vulnerable. Knowing that doesn't seem to be helping much. To be fair to myself, when it comes to receiving compliments, I have been improving. Sure, I can't say much more than a 'thank you' after being given one, but it's better than being an asshole. But that's another thing - I felt really bad (and still do to lesser extent) when I started forcing myself to say 'thank you' to compliments. I can't even acknowledge other's praise of me without thinking I'm the arrogant asshole. How the hell does that even work?

See above quote from kleenestar—frame it to yourself (and, if necessary, to them) as being about expressing gratitude for at least trying to give you a compliment, not necessarily about agreeing with them on where it comes from.

MapWater wrote:When it comes to giving compliments, well, I think it's just shyness. There was little drips and drabs of giving compliments being awkward (especially women to men) on the Invisibility DNL article comments. I'm going to take solace in the fact that it seems a fair amount of people, even when wanting to compliment someone and in a socially acceptable way, shy away from being able to do so. But it's still so frustrating to be standing there, wanting to compliment someone on something awesome about them and you just lock up like a coward. It's the kind of thing that haunts me for days. I know no one else really 'saw' anything that I did awkwardly - the problem is that I know I chickened out of something that shouldn't be difficult at all and it kills me.

So, now that the rant is over... How do others take to and give compliments? Are you a big giver of compliments? Or, is it something you reserve for 'mold breaking' things?

I'd like to be better and more prolific as a compliment-giver than I currently am, but when I do give a compliment it's usually not like a conscious "I want to give that person a compliment" kind of thing. It's more like...somebody explains a thing "wow, that was a great explanation; it makes a lot more sense now!" or somebody does a thing "you know, you're really good at that." One particular type I'd like to get better at doing is somebody wears a thing "that looks really good on you."

I might get around to looking this up more later, but based on this I'm starting to formulate an uneducated guess along the lines of "unambiguously positive adjectives make more effective compliments."
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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by LadyIkaros on Sun Dec 07, 2014 8:02 am

Yes. To the point where I've stopped my efforts to dress better. People mean well, but compliments about my appearance make me uncomfortable. Compliments about other things are fine though, and would also be the type I give, when I give any. I just don't feel like commenting on somebody else's looks are my place, you know?
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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by nearly_takuan on Sun Dec 07, 2014 9:43 am

LadyIkaros wrote:Yes. To the point where I've stopped my efforts to dress better. People mean well, but compliments about my appearance make me uncomfortable. Compliments about other things are fine though, and would also be the type I give, when I give any. I just don't feel like commenting on somebody else's looks are my place, you know?

Right, feelings like that are also part of the reason I'm not so much in the habit of giving compliments on looks. But, having found that there are some types of looks-related compliments that can make me feel good, or even temporarily optimistic about dating or job concerns, I've been thinking maybe I should make more of an effort to pay those kinds of compliments along. And now...eh, I don't know.

Is there no form of appearance-based compliment you would feel receiving? More generally, does anyone else have certain things they categorically cannot enjoy receiving compliments on, regardless of phrasing or context?

And if so, is there (to use Werel's awesome way of phrasing this question) a Hippocratic Oath of compliment-giving?
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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by Jayce on Sun Dec 07, 2014 9:55 am

Ok so most of the time I generally don't have problems receiving compliments and I usually believe them. After performing on stage today, and the show was over, two audience members told me I was good and did well. I personally thought my performance was probably bad-mediocre, since I made at least one mistake. I said thank you, and took the compliment anyway. It wasn't until I saw the video footage of the performance, it was actually ok, and there are good bits.

Unfortunately sometimes I forget to give out compliments. There were many times where I thought something good about someone, then a couple seconds later focused on myself, and forgot about telling the other person.

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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by LadyIkaros on Sun Dec 07, 2014 10:22 am

I feel better about some thing - "that's a nice necklace/shirt/whatever - being complimented than a blanket "you look good" statement. Because I don't believe it and already feel like "who am I trying to fool?" when dressing nicer. (Clearly the mantra about dressing better making you feel better about yourself isn't true of everyone; I'm more comfortable and confident when just wearing something practical and not very flattering - the other thing makes me feel like some sort of delusional impostor).

All that being said, I'm pretty sure that I and other posters on this thread are way more neurotic about all of this than the average person, so you probably won't be stepping on any toes with most people. But if you're nervous about that, then yeah, compliment something someone is wearing. I guess it's still passing judgement on their appearance in a way, but you're commenting on their good taste rather than directly on them, if that makes sense?
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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by nearly_takuan on Sun Dec 07, 2014 10:30 am

Heh. Well, yeah, I'm not really worried about stepping on the toes of people who already feel really secure about themselves; it's the off chance that someone isn't, and might feel better if they got some kind of positive feedback, that makes me interested in giving more genuine and more frequent compliments in the first place. (It also seems like a much lower-investment sort of thing than wider-reaching projects that only really benefit future generations, though of course the impact is going to be much smaller also.)

So, something along the lines of "that shirt looks really good on you" sounds likely to go over well. Thanks for the explanations! Smile
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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by Werel on Sun Dec 07, 2014 7:09 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:
So, something along the lines of "that shirt looks really good on you" sounds likely to go over well. Thanks for the explanations! Smile

This specific phrasing--"looks good on you"--rings a little flirty to me, and is actually a phrasing I've advised friends to use if they want to turn a normal clothing compliment into a slightly flirty compliment. Cause it's not just "good shirt," it's closer to "that shirt is on your body, and I am aware of your body and its interaction with that shirt, and I am pleased by the effect." Not that it's not a very flattering way to phrase a compliment, but if you're deliberately trying to avoid coming off flirtatious, deploy with caution.

LadyIkaros wrote:
I feel better about some thing - "that's a nice necklace/shirt/whatever - being complimented than a blanket "you look good" statement.

Totally. I find that appearance-based compliments that are mostly about aesthetic choices, rather than inherent traits, go over better in general. Lots of people have difficult feelings about their bodies, which by and large we do not get to choose, but most people are happy to have their decision-making skills praised; especially if it's obvious that somebody went out on a limb with a particular item (e.g. very unusual shoes), a compliment about that item is a compliment about that person's taste and judgment.

kleenestar's "what a thoughtful thing to say" is gold, by the way. I generally make use of the similar "well aren't you sweet" to handle compliments I don't necessarily agree with; I like it because the intonation can be modified to convey anything from a southern grandma's warm "bless your heart," to "fuck off, I don't believe that for a second and neither do you." Razz
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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by nearly_takuan on Sun Dec 07, 2014 7:32 pm

Oh. Hah. That's... So, complimenting a person's taste + how it fits their body is actually kind of what I was going for, but I wasn't thinking of it as a flirty thing at all. And maybe it would still be safely non-flirty with appropriate intonation?

Pft. Naturally I'd only think of a flirty thing to do by accident, and then fail to recognize it. Razz Thanks for catching it before I went and made an ass of myself IRL.
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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by Werel on Sun Dec 07, 2014 9:31 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:Oh. Hah. That's... So, complimenting a person's taste + how it fits their body is actually kind of what I was going for, but I wasn't thinking of it as a flirty thing at all. And maybe it would still be safely non-flirty with appropriate intonation?

Pft. Naturally I'd only think of a flirty thing to do by accident, and then fail to recognize it. Razz Thanks for catching it before I went and made an ass of myself IRL.

If complimenting the fit is actually what you're going for, then it's a perfect way to phrase it-- I don't think you'd be making an ass of yourself in any case, unless the person (like so many in this thread) has serious difficulties hearing compliments that are even tangentially related to their body. I'd take such a compliment as just "that is a flattering item of clothing" and extrapolate any further intent from my personal knowledge of the complimenter; in most contexts I wouldn't read it as necessarily flirty, especially if you're not generally a very flirtatious person. I think most people would probably just parse it as "that's flattering" and be tickled by it. Wink
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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by kleenestar on Sun Dec 07, 2014 10:52 pm

I would just like to say that there is no lovelier compliment than coming into a thread and discovering that multiple people find something I've said to be helpful!
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Re: [Rant / Disc] Compliments - Giving and Receiving

Post by Guest on Sun Dec 07, 2014 11:26 pm

Good discussion! I like muchly.

The Wisp wrote:As with giving compliment, I struggle with that, too. Giving a compliment is a vulnerable place to put oneself in, because it shows that you admire something about somebody. I always worry about overdoing it and coming off as (platonically) creepy or clingy or weird. I probably shouldn't worry about that given my natural disposition is to be cagey, though.

It always comes back to vulnerability. Razz

I have the creepy block as well, I think. I mean, every time I have given a woman in particular a compliment on something - anything - it has never gone badly. There's just this blockage before I make the comment. I assume working at it will eventually fix it, but man, it's ridiculously stressing when it shouldn't be.

To be positive for once, it's awesome to someone's eyes light up when you give them a compliment on something and you can tell that noticing it is a big deal for them. That's the kind of good stuff which is worth logging away in your head to remember before bed. Not your flubs.

nearly_takuan wrote:I hope kleenestar doesn't mind me grabbing a comment she wrote back on Paging, 'cause I think it's practically perfect:

Jess wrote:"Thank you - what a thoughtful thing to say!" is one of my go-tos. It acknowledges that the other person was trying to be kind without requiring me to address whether I agree.

That's pretty good - I just usually go for a plain old thank you, unless there's an easy way to carry on after it with the topic or whatnot. But commenting it was a thoughtful thing to say also reinforces you appreciate their effort and opinion even if it doesn't match your own.

nearly_takuan wrote:
MapWater wrote:Receiving them has always been tricky with self-esteem issues...

Yeah, comments on body shape are always really tricky. In high school and early college people (generally church-friends and relatives) kept telling me I had "the right build" for cross-country or that they wished they could keep the weight off as easily as I did (yay). At 19 I abruptly gained two inches and about thirty pounds (so I could no longer joke that I was literally a 98-pound weakling), but I was still fairly skinny.

Lately I've found that less direct remarks work a lot better, at least on me. A suggestive half-joke about me wearing a spandex costume next Halloween (as opposed to the shirt+vest+coat I was describing) felt way better than when other people try to use "skinny" or even "fit" as compliments (the latter might be partly because, while I know I look healthier and more filled-out than I did six years ago, I also know my strength has not improved greatly since then and my heart rate and blood pressure are worse—obviously not information available to the speaker, but it still gets in the way of accepting what is ultimately just an attempt to say something nice about my appearance).

Hah, I'm 23 and still a 45kg (~99lbs?) weakling so I know exactly what you're saying there. I definitely dislike implications that I'm fit, but I typically avoid that because outside my face, I look rather skeletal. So, I typically receive a more 'Oh wow' response or I get quizzed about what's wrong with me. I can take a joke about it though, if I'm feeling adequately jolly and it's in good taste. It also depends on who is making it. If I just met you and you go right for 'lol ur skinny' I'm not going to be impressed unless it's one hell of a joke.

nearly_takuan wrote:
MapWater wrote:Has anyone ever been on the receiving end of 'he/she must get all the guys/girls' when it exactly the opposite?...

Haven't heard that exact remark, but people do tend to express disbelief when the fact that I've never dated/kissed/whatever comes up. And yeah, not sure if they're trying to be nice or what, but it brings up more negative thoughts than positive. Ditto "a girl would be lucky to have you" claims. I have a relative who, any time she hears my phone beep, asks if it's my girlfriend calling, which...yeah. Thanksgiving this year was, as always, a constant barrage of things like this—which is exactly the reason I don't like the winter holidays or large family gatherings in general. (My sister and I make it tolerable for each other, at least.)

I've never really gotten the 'lucky to have you' spiel. It's one comment that clearly does come from a good place, even if it can turn sour in our heads, I suppose.

That's a real pain being pulled up like that though. None of my family are in Australia save for direct family so I don't face the gatherings. The one man who could get away with comments about getting a girlfriend etc. with me was my late grandfather. I don't face it that often or constantly.

What actually made me make the thread was a woman talking to my father will I was off doing something within earshot. I don't know if she knew I heard, but she supposed to my Dad that I 'must get all the girls'. I'm happy this time it wasn't said directly to me, because it did irk me right away. But, to be totally fair, the woman was being very lovely. She certainly liked my hair at least.

Werel wrote:
LadyIkaros wrote:
I feel better about some thing - "that's a nice necklace/shirt/whatever - being complimented than a blanket "you look good" statement.

Totally. I find that appearance-based compliments that are mostly about aesthetic choices, rather than inherent traits, go over better in general. Lots of people have difficult feelings about their bodies, which by and large we do not get to choose, but most people are happy to have their decision-making skills praised; especially if it's obvious that somebody went out on a limb with a particular item (e.g. very unusual shoes), a compliment about that item is a compliment about that person's taste and judgment.

I find it also shows you pay attention to the person if they are in regular contact with you and they change something - their hair, new shoes, trying out a new style of clothing. That seems to be well appreciated when I've noticed something cool someone has changed about their look.

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