Day 4: On Sincerity and Compliments

It’s really hard to give a high quality and sincere compliment.
Well… I find it very hard to give a sincere compliment.
Maybe I’m trying too hard to make it an event when a passing comment about liking the design of a sweater will do. Maybe I’m looking for something that doesn’t exist anymore in the social settings where everyone tries to appear their own brand of perfect.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter situation–I might just be looking in the wrong place.
I think the sound of sincerity is getting harder to hear. At the risk of stereotyping, when I think of insincere compliments I hear a female voice, probably early 20s, saying something like, “I just LOVE your [article of clothing]!!” There’s nothing inherently wrong with the statement–it is in fact saying nice things about something that someone may take pride in. But when I hear this voice, it sounds fake and forced. Possibly there was a pause in conversation moments ago that made everyone uncomfortable and someone needs to restart it.
Stereotyping the men isn’t much better. The voice I hear there involves blatantly making fun of someone with or without an actual insult thrown in. While I don’t think this specifically has been said to me, I can pretty clearly hear someone making fun of my run (I am still self conscious about this), “HEY nice run, what are you gay!” *
To contrast, some of the best compliments I’ve received have been completely nonverbal and understated. Someone making eye contact, pointing at an article of clothing or hair to mirror what I’m wearing and giving a thumbs up, for example.
Other than attempting to stand out from “the me generation,” sincere compliments do serve a purpose. They let a person know that someone notices them and notices the effort put into looking nice, a task, etc. By my observation, many if not most compliments fall into the stereotyped examples or something similar. Quality compliments delivered sincerely are hard to find but are extremely effective.
This isn’t going to turn into a how-to guide for giving compliments–you can look elsewhere for that. But, taking the time to give sincere compliments has as much to do with you as the person receiving the compliments:
  • You exercise vulnerability (this is very hard)
  • You have to be paying attention to notice
  • You speak clearly and specifically
These three things are why I value compliments highly. They all seem quite easy, but are actually incredibly difficult to do well and do often. Try it some time, you might be surprised what happens.

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