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! 

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51 thoughts on “Good Job… Sort Of

  1. That little “I don’t want you to get a big head but” phrase has its place between two VERY good friends. Once in a while, only if it’s for some accomplishment that’s really special and the phrase is followed by a big hug and extremely sincere praise.

    Yes, be free with telling people you like what they do or how they look, when you really think that way. It costs nothing to be nice. I agree with you, Rachel.

    I have been enjoying pet peeve month very much, my friend. Now I don’t want you getting a big head. Hug. 🙂

  2. like mark, i’ve enjoyed your pet peeve month and i admire your ability to overcome great challenges in your life and will pass your kindness on tenfold.

      • I think that’s a wonderful idea. Last year, I made some small photo clients call me “Your Highness.” I loved it so much, I tried it out on Facebook, but then a wiseacre started taking it too far. (sigh) But good for Shirley! I knew I loved her!

  3. I think social media encourages people to give false compliments… its so easy to ‘like’ posts without thinking too deeply about them. There are a lot of trolls out there criticising everyone whilst hiding behind the internet, I think equally it encourages a lot of shallow complimenting too. But also it gets likeminded people together from around the globe who give meaningful praise and support. I think you can usually tell the difference.

      • Sometimes it does. My husband has Asperger’s Syndrome. Back in the day no one had even heard of such a thing. His dad had no idea what made my husband do some of the stuff he did. Fortunately, before my FIL passed away, they had a good talk and his dad told him he was proud of him.

  4. Hitting the nail on the head once again! I grew up as someone who really never knew how to accept a compliment. My family didn’t make me feel badly about myself. (okay, thanks Aunt Betty. Yes I have always had a fat ass.;o) They weren’t floating much in the way of compliments either- though. I wasn’t one who could give them a lot of material. No honestly, I didn’t see myself as smart- my brother was a genius- no a real one. My sister had a head full of thick rather curly red hair. (Mom became a beautician when I was in first grade. See where I am going? I had thin fine- baby fine, straight hair. So I was the experiment for anything new short of color- as what was there to screw up worse than it was. I didn’t take offense- just wished I had thick curly long hair. I actually hoped there might be some improvement. Given the harsh chemicals of the day for hair, this was truly unlikely.) It seemed I grew up deflecting compliments- a trait which extended quite a long way into my adulthood. If given a compliment, I’d set straight away pointing out why I didn’t deserve that compliment. I mean without missing a beat. A boyfriend who was also one of my best friends ever, was the one who taught me to just say thank you. It was something that took a very long time to learn. He got me to understand that in diverting the compliment it made him feel as though I didn’t value his opinion or that he just wasn’t competent or sincere in giving his opinion. I was stunned and shocked. I had felt honestly like I hadn’t deserved compliments- ever. I felt what I said was a reflection on me- modesty even- instead of it being negative. SO parents, people- do be sincere in your compliments and generous with them…and if someone you know well doesn’t know how to accept a compliment help them understand how and why to accept this positive comment. Even if I don’t know someone well and they start saying why it was someone else’s ability to do their hair or that they forgot to do this or that or last week they flubbed something up, I smile. interrupt (I do think in this case there is a reason to interrupt.), and say , “Repeat after me, thank you.” And if they start back on their modesty, I say again with a smile, “No really. I mean what I said.” I explain that whatever I complimented is a gift, or a really important job, or a pleasure for me to see or hear- and I say so just accept my opinion by saying thank you- it’s okay to believe me. I hope that isn’t rude. And sometimes I say “I hope this doesn’t offend you,” before saying the No really part. I just think it is a very empowering positive thing to accepting graciously a compliment- not because you believe you’re all that- but because you appreciated that someone saw this or that about you or what you’ve done. I bet we secrete some endorphins when we receive sincere compliments.
    On the other end of things , I find it really rude to go with the don’t get a swollen head thing- it isn’t clever or flattering at all and makes the person giving it sound like an idiot. It just isn’t appropriate. I also don’t find insincere compliments to be something said to break up silence often- which makes it even more awkward. lol
    SO to recap…keep it real.

    • LOL! Exactly. Yeah, it’s sad how so may of us don’t often complain about our lives or our upbringing so others have no idea what demons we’ve been dealing with and then they think they’re being funny. But I’ve learned as you did, just say thank you when you do get a compliment and don’t try to pick it apart. 🙂

  5. Sincere compliments are good and should be accepted in that spirit. But such giving doesn’t come naturally to some and it may come across as trite and insincere. I’ll take them in any form and I hope I’m not slow in recognising the positives in others.
    Also, it’s important to praise the effort that someone might have made, not necessarily the end result, which might fall short.

    • That’s true. I think efforts are just as important to be praised as the end results. Case in point, my daughter effortlessly made As in school, while my son had to work his tail off to make D+’s. Some things aren’t as easy to some people as they are to others, but they try and that should be recognized. 🙂

  6. Same here. I recently had someone say that they were proud of me for the first time just this year, when I published my book. I totally get where you’re coming from.

  7. You do know you do rock, right? And, I challenge anyone to a duel if they dared suggest you weren’t the bomb! 😀

    This was a great post idea. I have been struggling with a post about why I’m a cheerleader, but like another friend, (Diahann Reyes) you’ve said something that is good for at least another paragraph. Love when you do that!! ❤

  8. Another interesting post about pet peeves. I’ll miss this series of posts when you’re through with them.

    Regarding compliments, I have no problems with handing out ‘likes’ when something makes me laugh, touches me, inspires me or – and this is important – when I think someone may need one. I generally try to comment as well if time permits. Sometimes it doesn’t because there aren’t enough hours in the day. I’m happy when people read my blog and drop a ‘like’ on me. With all the blogs available to readers, even the simple acknowledgement that they’ve taken a look means a lot.

    This is one of my regular stops in the blogosphere. You always have something interesting to share, and I look forward to reading your thoughts.

  9. Thank for the reminder of being kind. And on tips to compliment and receive them. I had a friend that anytime I’d compliment her or what she was wearing, she’d use that moment to further put herself down. “Nice blouse”…she’d retaliate “this ugly thing, it’s all I had”. “Love your hair” would get her to say “too frizzy”. With “Pretty dress” came a “it makes me look fat”. I told her she had to learn to accept a compliment with a smile and a thank you. Doing so will also validate the complimentor. You keep the kindness cycle going.

    • That’s good advice. Sometimes people think that people refuse compliments because they are fishing for more, but I think really, they just don’t know how to accept niceties. It’s very sad when that happens. You’re a good friend to help her out. 🙂

  10. Wow. This post blew me away. You are truly great, with the keyboard or without it. Excellent and honest post!
    I am actually one of those who compliments those who make an impression on me. I don’t get too many compliments myself but the ones I get, I know I deserve. I am old enough to know what type of person I am, my failings and my virtues.
    Loved this honest post. So wise! (a rare thing these days). Loved it!

  11. It’s sad that some people just don’t know how to give or accept compliments… (I liked the picture at the bottom. 😉 If there’s something i love, it’s a play on words. 😉 )

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