Monday, July 2, 2012

Take a compliment, give a compliment

Maybe it’s because I witnessed too many people give insincere, kiss-uppy compliments to one another that I made a subconscious decision to never give out gratuitous compliments of my own. I say 'subconscious' because it wasn’t until recently that I realized I am very, very stingy when it comes to doling out compliments. Oh, I give my kids compliments all the time. It’s good for their self-esteem and all that. But grown ups – and especially fellow womenfolk? Nope. I mean, not even my mom. Not that I don’t admire things about people, but I guess I have a deep-seated fear of coming off as disingenuous and would rather keep my praise to myself than sound fake.

I think I hated that most compliments seemed to place emphasis on shallow, unimportant things.  I would grit my teeth to hear a conversation between two ladies that would start with a squeal followed closely by, “Ooooo! I soooo love your shoooooes!” Dry heave. And no, I wasn’t jealous that it wasn’t my shoes that were being fawned over. I received a designer bag for Christmas and carried it, in part, so that my mom could see that I liked her gift. But I got disgusted when a couple of ladies from work, who never talk to me otherwise, went way out of their way to compliment my bag. Ugh. As if only now that I carried a status symbol on my arm was I interesting enough to speak to. Barf, barf, barf.

After that, I went away for a Girls’ Weekend with six other ladies – some old friends and some casual acquaintances. It was fun and over too soon and before I knew it, I was back home, replaying random moments in my head. It was during this internal lookback that I noticed there were compliments flying every which way all weekend. Not always about important things, but at the same time, not necessarily insincere.  And in the case of the girls that I didn’t know as well as the others, complimenting each other was an icebreaker of sorts. Kind of like when you were in kindergarten on the playground and went around asking people, “Do you want to be my friend?” – but only in a more sophisticated, grown up way. I also noticed that, amongst friends, it can be an amiable and charming way to express fondness and acceptance.

Would I rather be complimented on something I achieved than on an accessory? Sure. Will I still wretch when I hear sugar-coated compliments preceded by double-cheek air kisses? Yep. But I’m learning that, while some compliments can be gratuitous, they aren’t automatically empty. Taken – and given - in the right context, they can brighten a day or even kick-start a friendship. Huh. Whaddya know.

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