Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Complaint About Compliments

Blame it on genetics. Blame it on my cold, critical unloving parents. Blame it on my early childhood trauma. For whatever reason, I cannot take a compliment. 

Compliments are a form of praise and praise is approval or admiration. I am not so jaded that I don't think compliments can theoretically exist, I just do not believe that 98% of them are sincere. The first thing that destroys a compliment is if I can find any slight error in the completed work. By completed work, I mean MY completed work. It's not like I go around picking apart other people's work without permission...very much....anymore. Okay! I admit it, I'm a critical bastard.  I find it very difficult to not criticize something if I know of something that is superior. Thankfully, I am most critical of myself so please know that any criticism that escapes outward is returned ten fold inward.

My second problem with compliments is the vague inference that you must return a compliment. "Nice outfit!" "Hey thanks, those shoes are hot!" First off, your shoes are not hot. Secondly, why am I talking about the hotness of someone else's shoes? Third, if you didn't want me to talk about the hotness of your shoes would have mentioned the niceness of my outfit? Probably not. 

Another problem I have with compliments (perhaps this is self created) is that compliments can be used tactically. Imagine that you do not like someone (I know it is hard but pretend) what better way to get them on your side then to pay them faux compliments. By complimenting another person you appeal to their ego/vanity and it makes them feel good, which makes them feel good about you. You on the other hand might still HATE them but they will never know. What this affords you is an upper hand in the relationship and an opportunity to use those good vibes against them at a later date.

It is because of this notion that I am dubious toward all other complimenters in the world. The most frightening of all is the self deprecating complimenter. The self deprecating complimenter is someone who feels comfortable enough to make light of their own short comings while paying you a compliment. If the SDC is sincere then they have low self esteem. However, if their compliment is aggressive and almost boastful of your talent/success then they are threatened/jealous of you. I know this, because I am a self proclaimed SDC.

My final problem with compliments is the inconsistency of the people who give them. Imagine this conversation between you and a friend:

You: Hey did you watch Fight Club yet?
Them: Yeah, it's my second favorite movie of all time!
You: Really? What is your favorite?
Them: Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail


You: Hey, how did you like those ribs that I spent 8 hours cooking in my backyard smoker?
Them: They were great! They were probably the best thing I had since that sandwich I ate last week.
You: Sandwich?
Them: Yeah, I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I dropped it on the floor but it didn't get that dirty because I had just mopped it. Actually now that I think of it, perhaps it was the lemony scent from the Mop and Glo that enhanced the sandwich's flavor.

If someone pays you a compliment and then directly compliments something bad or of poor quality it is difficult to legitimately accept their compliment. How can you feel a boost of approval or recognition when you no longer respect their opinion/ability to judge good from bad? Certainly I could just ignore the potential pitfalls of a compliment but I believe that compliments are directly rooted in judgement. A compliment must be  earned because a compliment earning act/creation is a departure from the norm.

 No one has complimented me on ingesting food or making a bowel movement in a loooong time.  If we are not constantly complimenting each other on adequately completing the mundane realities of life then a complimenter at the very least must be able to discern superior from average. If we are able to legitimately discern good from bad then perhaps it would behoove us to print up some complimentary vouchers in limited numbers to reduce the use of haphazard compliments.


  1. Great points there. I agree ten-fold. I love this one too, "You look nice,today." What? How about the rest of the week? Scumbag.

  2. I want to say good post, but I dont know if you'll take my compliment :). I remember in Mean Girls, when one of the girls said "omg, I love your bracelet" but it was hideous. Why do people do that? I agree with you.

  3. I never throw in a compliment if I don't mean it. I would guess recklessly that some people do it because they think it is all part of the polite "niceties" package.
    I'd rather be honest. But if it's damn good, I would always call it an Ace!

  4. Great job on this post Drone!
    I loved reading this almost as much as I loved reading the latest edition of Us Weekly...

  5. Nice one! You hit the nail right on the head!

  6. I love Lola's shoes ... she looks adorable!

  7. @mom: that's just "a pug" not "my pug".

    @everyone else: thanks for reading, I wasn't sure whether the content was too poorly written to be understood this time.

  8. You're a cynical bastard. And I mean that in the nicest way possible.
    Actually, I complimented you in the comments on my blog before I read this. Hopefully you aren't offended.