Compliments in Action

Nice moat! St. Louis is home to lots of new water features these days. 

Nice moat! St. Louis is home to lots of new water features these days. 

At the end of May, my Mental Health/Spiritual challenge was to give and receive compliments. This was the week before I went on vacation and included the first couple days of my vacation. 

There were no updates, which may have led you suspect that I a) failed to give/receive compliments or b) had some unexpected results. 

The correct answer is B. First, I realized compliments seem personal when I give them and sharing those I receive feels like bragging, so I didn't do it. 

I tried to make a point to compliment someone every day and as the week went along, the less effort it took and the more spontaneous my compliments became. I find it easiest to compliment things I can see. Physical things such as clothing, jewelry, smiles, cars, dogs, etc.

I remember a time when complimenting anything at all was more difficult for me. I'm a little shy, a little introverted, and I used to be a lot afraid of putting myself, and the things I liked, out there, even good things, like compliments. 

But I worked on it and now I can compliment appearance fairly easily and spontaneously. 

I find it more difficult to compliment actions such as dancing, interactions, nice things done for something else that I happened to observe - at least in the traditional complimentary way.

But I receive a fair amount of those "action" types of compliments and, at least to me, those carry a lot of weight. It means a LOT when someone notices something I do, versus something about my appearance. 

Not that compliments about appearance don't matter, because they do, especially when they come from strangers. A woman complimented my smile as I was crossing the parking lot at work and that was pretty awesome. In retrospect, I wonder why I was smiling as I crossed the parking lot. Anyhow...

I suspect that I simply need to get used to giving out "action" compliments, just like I got used to complimenting appearance and things. I'm completely comfortable complimenting strangers and friends on their appearance, or their "stuff," but not on what they do. I am now working to become comfortable with both. 

Also, I think it's important to note that thanking someone for doing something is not the same as complimenting what they did. "Thank you for cleaning the kitchen" is not the same as "Wow, the kitchen looks great." Depending on the situation, one may be more important than the other. Did someone do something specifically for you? There better be a thanks in there, and there might also be a compliment. Did someone do something awesome that happens to help you out? Give a compliment, followed by a thanks. 

But don't stress too much about it. Say thanks and give as many compliments as you can. You'll feel better and so will the people around you. 

Backhanded Compliments Revisited

My friend Margie recently shared her thoughts about what I wrote in the first post, about so-called backhanded compliments, such as "Wow! You look great! You've lost weight!" I thought such compliments were backhanded because they imply that you didn't look great until you lost weight. 

But the way Margie sees it, it's a compliment on the work you did to lose weight, which makes sense. Most of the time, a lot of effort goes into losing weight. It's not easy to do and it's hard to maintain. REALLY hard. 

Now that I've thought about how she sees it, I think Margie's right. Not that there aren't backhanded compliments, but compliments on losing weight might not be among them. 

But wait - weren't we just discussing the difference between complimenting appearance (the new thinner you) and actions (the work you did to lose weight)? If you get a compliment on how great the new, smaller you looks, go ahead and make the translation. It's probably easier for that person to compliment your appearance than your effort. They probably don't know ho you lost the weight, but I bet they're about to ask. 

Just Say Thanks

A week of complimenting often reinforced my opinion that the best possible response to a compliment is "thank you." I don't mind if you want to tell me where you got that awesome cat t-shirt, but I don't want to hear about how it's the oldest thing in your closet and you're thinking of sending it to the rag pile. Whoever complimented you put themselves and their opinions out there, so be careful not to say anything that will make them feel worse for doing so. 

That hardly ever happens, but it's uncomfortable enough when it does that it bears mentioning. 

Thanks for reading! You have great taste in blogs! :)