(The intentionally convoluted title almost prompted me to add ‘Harry Potter and’ as a prefix. But it works wonderfully for the content of the post and is thus left as is.)
Compliments – are polite, expressive and appreciative. They can make someone’s day as effortlessly as good weather. A genuine, well timed, rightly placed compliment can actually dispel the negativity of a hundred negative comments. When they come from valued people, compliments automatically become a hundred times more powerful.
Aside from all these positive things, compliments have also become one of the most misused, wrongly timed, sugar coated falsehoods that have almost zero value behind them and are often regarded with distrust. Even the best of sugary compliments are now taken with a pinch of salt, and often a lot of ‘reading between the lines’ happens. Most compliments are multi-layered, and based on the giver, prone to a lot of consideration.
But the weirdest part in the whole compliments drama is often left unsaid, and never publicly accepted. A compliment, by definition, is appreciation or praise for something good. It is just that and nothing more. But things take an infuriatingly funny tone when compliments are considered declarations of one’s superior skill, and, by extension, automatically an acceptance of the lack of that particular skill in the person who gives the compliment.
Many times, simple compliments now have a standard response. It is considered polite, and even proper, to respond to a compliment with, “but you do it even better.” In the words of Sherlock Holmes, the ability of the opponent should be neither underestimated, nor overestimated. A similar logic extends to compliments. A praise for someone’s skill or a job well done, is just a simple, oftentimes polite, appreciation, and never borne out of wishful thinking.
A compliment does not mean an acceptance of lack of skill, or talent. When someone compliments a job well done, it does not translate into them saying they could not have done it better. I am usually effusive with my compliments, and appreciate a job well done. I offer honest opinions, but also make sure to highlight the best points in any piece of work.
With my unending love for words, I always appreciate the written word, especially when it is beautifully crafted. There is beauty in art, and the writer in me appreciates the nuances in other’s words. It does not take the eye of an artist to appreciate someone’s art, which is a matter of individual preferences and tastes, and is subjective to each individual.
It therefore surprises me when my compliments are always responded to with the standard, “oh but you are an amazing writer yourself.”
Why, thank you, I think I have a fairly good opinion about my own writing. While I do appreciate yours, it does not mean I don’t value or appreciate mine!
The same principle extends to compliments in other fields too, especially the ones about exterior beauty and intelligence. While it is good habit to respond to a compliment with a good word yourself, it is not mandatory to say (and sometimes vehemently insist) that the person who compliments is equally good or better. It is at that moment precisely that the compliment gets a halo of insincerity.
Good compliments are rare. Those that do not expect anything in return are rarer. A compliment is never an expression of lack of confidence, and understanding this difference is what makes each little praise ring true, and make someone’s day!