Them: You’re so pretty.
Me: I know.
I don’t handle compliments in the same way that everyone else seems to. This development has been something acquired over the last few years as I’ve come to realize the lack of truly sincere compliments in our society. Part of this started with a book called, “I Am Not a Serial Killer.” The main character in this book had some issues to say the least, but I learned something from that book that has been incredibly useful to me and become a tool in my life used basically every day. First though, I have to explain why this is even applicable for me.
I’m not so fond of society and the human population. I find most of them dull and their actions questionable. I study sociology because I try to understand why people in groups do what they do. It’s something I truly don’t understand and thus their interactions become fascinating. In addition to this, I’m frequently finding myself annoyed by other humans and the stupidity that laces their comments and actions. Anyways, in this book, the main character, in order to stop his intrusive thoughts, forces himself to find good things about people and compliment them on those things sincerely. At very least, he might tell someone he likes their shoelaces or socks but generally, he tries to go deeper than that and say something about who they really are as a person.
After reading this book, I experimentally adopted this technique and it stuck. To this day, whenever I find myself disliking someone, I find something that I like about them and tell them. The trick is actually telling the person because it holds you accountable for acting in kindness towards them and the people recognize that. Sometimes I explain this action to people and then they think that every compliment I give is simply because I don’t like that person which is not always the case. This is simply my extra effort to always find something good in people and it really works.
In addition to this method of changing my thinking, I changed another way that I handle compliments. I began to notice a large quantity of situations in which people were complimented and the person argued the compliment, making it lose it’s meaning. The giver of the compliment has to either agree with the receiver, or defend their comment with more than they probably ever intended to do. There’s a few reasons that this seems to happen. 1) The receiver is fishing for more than just a few words. (This is stupid and shallow; don’t do it). 2) The receiver truly disagrees (accept the compliment anyways, then you can choose to ignore or internalize it). 3) The receiver doesn’t want to accept the compliment as a compliment (This usually happens with debatable things. I’ve been told a lot that I would make such a great Mom. Which okay…What is that supposed to imply?) OR 4) The receiver doesn’t want to accept that compliment from that giver (usually a compliment regarding something specific that the giver is lacking knowledge in or has too much knowledge about).
Another frequent pattern of compliments seems to be saying thank you and then returning a compliment of their own. An example might be someone tells you that they like your shirt and you respond by saying thank you, and then that you like theirs as well. The ONLY situation in which I allow myself to give a return compliment as such is if I was already thinking the comment before they spoke. If it’s something that pops up after, I remain quiet and just thank them for their comment. I will not minimize a compliment given to me by feeling obligated to give one in return.
This being said, the pattern of thank you’s and your welcome’s after compliments is also sometimes over done. I don’t want to constantly be saying “thank you” after every comment and in the same way as a return compliment, “you’re welcome” seems to almost minimize the compliment given. Thanks is reserved for quick passing compliments from strangers or people that I look up to and of which I value their opinions. However, those compliments from those I look up to usually come in a more formal way, where rather than “I like your shirt” they say something meaningful about my actions, behavior or personality. These compliments are something deeper and something I earn, not a material possession.
Sometimes I’m not even thankful for the compliment. Like I mentioned earlier, many have told me that I would be a great Mom. I don’t know what they are trying to imply, so I’m not grateful for that comment. I usually respond with an “Oh” in those situations because I’ve already discarded the thought. If I do return to it later, it’s simply to decipher what the heck their comment meant. There’s other situations as well were I’m not grateful for the compliment and my thanks depends on who the giver of the comment is.
After acknowledging these patterns of compliments, I started responding in a new way. At first, this was only with compliments given through messages, but it later branched out and now is how I respond to most. Instead of arguing or saying thank you, I just say “I know” or “I agree.” Sometimes I don’t agree, but I will respond this way anyways because in my own way, it is a way of saying “thank you” for noticing something that I made/found/did/have/love/etc. The responses I get from this are baffling sometimes. People have literally stopped talking to me because I agreed with a compliment they gave me. Most of the time, people just laugh because they know that that’s just how I am. Sometimes they think I’m arguing and tell me it’s true, to which I agree again. People don’t know how to respond because they expect one of the actions aforementioned. I catch them off guard by responding in such an abnormal way that sets me far apart from the crowd.
All of this might seem selfish and conceited and rude, but to me it makes sense. Even with my words, I refuse to be what others expect if I disagree with it. For me, this way is the kind way. This is the way that I recognize the good that others see in me without trying to diminish their thoughts.
Switching gears for a moment to a random last thought, complements are interesting things in contrast to compliments. It’s the only situation I can think of where somewhat opposite and often contrasting things come together aesthetically and it works. It’s the contrast of all of the things that creates the unity. This really should be more focused on in our world. If we could learn to complement, rather than compliment each other, things might change. We would be working to play off of each other, to become stronger as one rather than solely noticing the achievements of others. To complement instead of compliment would require observation of each other’s behaviors and reactions rather than just words.
Hasta Mañana, Iguana!