Good Job… Sort Of

How are we holding up with my pet peeve theme this month, friends?  I hope I haven’t chased anyone away.  (I was afraid when I selected this month’s theme that people might perceive me as being negative and not want to read my blog anymore.)

Anyway, today’s pet peeve IS about negative people.  More accurately, it’s about people that are stingy with compliments.  And please, before you feel like I’m trying to solicit a bunch of “attagirls” in my comment section below, that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m also not talking about what I call “false compliments” such as when you tell someone something like, “I like your shirt,” and they automatically reply with , “I like yours, too.”  Personally, when this happens, I don’t believe the person, and I think it’s a kneejerk response because they either don’t know what to say, they don’t know how to simply say “thank you,” or they are unused to receiving praise.

What I am talking about is one phrase in particular that some people use to preface a so-called compliment (the preface takes away from it actually being a compliment).  It goes something like this:  “Now I don’t want you to get a big head, but…”  The person usually has a big, cheesy grin when they say it.

That boils my blood when people say that to me!  I know they think they’re being funny, but I just think they’re being kind of mean.   If strangers or causal acquaintances say this to me, I think it’s just in bad taste because they don’t know me.  But when someone who knows me well says that, it really cheeses me.  If they knew me as well as they think they do, they’d know I’m the last person to walk around with a swollen ego from one compliment.  They’d know I’m my own worst enemy as well as my harshest critic.  They’d know that if I’m not happy with whatever accomplishment they’re complimenting, then their “Good job, Rach” is absolutely meaningless to me.  And they’d know that I’ve never been overly complimented in my life from my very own family.

I really hope you don’t think I’m trying to break my arm patting myself on the back here, because I’m a little embarrassed to share this, but I’m only stating the facts when I say that I’ve raised two autistic kids with absolutely zero help from either of their dads, and my family (except one of my sisters, Michelle) never gave me any moral support whatsoever.  My entire childhood was filled with, “Not bad, but you could do better if only…”  My birth mom’s idea of a compliment is, “You know how this could be better…”  (Even those are rare.  Mostly it’s, “You know what your problem is…”)  Heck, I was over forty years old before ANYONE ever said to me, “Rachel, I’m proud of you.”  It was one of my childhood friend’s fathers who connected with me after 20+ years on Facebook and learned what I had been doing.  He watched my childhood and knew the type of environment I grew up in.  And when he told me he was proud of me, I actually cried.  And when I told him he was the only person to have ever said that to me, HE cried.

I guess I just don’t see what’s wrong with giving praise when praise is due.  It doesn’t cost anything, and it can make all the difference in the world to someone.  We don’t always know what other people are secretly dealing with.  There’s definitely a time for humor; don’t get me wrong.  But I just don’t think the time is in the middle of what should be a sincere compliment.  (Again, I’m not talking about blogging or social networking, casual contact, etc., and I’m also not talking about people we see every day and do compliment regularly… If you tell your wife she’s beautiful every day and then once a month you joke that her hair is sticking up, that’s just being funny.  {Of course if you joke about her appearance every day and only compliment her once a month, then that’s just not nice.}  But I’m talking about withholding the compliment from people we actually know.)  What does it hurt to say, “All kidding aside, I really liked your report on the Rainforest,” or, “Wow, you did a great job on running that 5K!” or even, “Nice try!”

So now, instead of asking you any thought-provoking questions today, I’m going to ask you to go be kind to someone else.  Please go find another (real) person today, either in your home or elsewhere (not on-line), and pay them a sincere compliment, delivered in person, no strings attached.  Have a wonderful day!