Social Interaction; compliments

I’m still fairly new to WordPress, so I’m not sure I’m doing this right. I guess time will tell. The daily post prompt is what’s the best or worst backhanded compliment you’ve ever received, or if I can’t think of one, when was the last time someone paid me a compliment I didn’t actually deserve?

I think I’d like to explore the custom of compliments, since at the moment I can’t think of any that fit either category. I’m sure one or two will pop into my head as I write, but for the most part I don’t pay attention to compliments, sincere or backhanded.

My family wasn’t known for handing out praise. Either you did a good job as was expected, or you didn’t and you got criticized or punished… and did it over and over til you got it right. It took me years to learn how to just say “Thank you,” when offered a compliment. To this day I still hesitate, ready to make excuses or point out the flaws that they don’t see in whatever they are complimenting. I resist that urge, though. I just smile and say thanks.

On the other hand, on the rare occasion I receive a backhanded compliment, I might respond in one of two ways. I either just say thanks and let it slide (I assume they are so unhappy with themselves they need to spread the misery around a little), or respond with a little bit of levity to let them know I wasn’t feeling the love.

I’ve been told I’m a good driver “for a girl,” and have received grudging compliments usually in a surprised voice when men find out I have some mechanical ability. My response? “Gee, and I did it *without* the help of a penis!! I can’t imagine how I did that…” Sometimes I just can’t help it, I need to embarrass people with archaic belief systems. So, when I receive a backhanded compliment that is worthy of a reply, it kinda makes my day. Hey, I’m just doing my part to help enlighten the world.

I work with a young man who gives out many compliments during the course of the day. To most he tries to be sincere but for a few people he hands out backhanded compliments. He is rather insecure, and his genuine compliments, I believe, are designed to establish friendly communication. His backhanded compliments are usually pretty subtle, and not a lot of folks get them. I figure this is his way of making himself feel better, because the people he backhands with his words are pretty snarky to him usually.

That’s how most people use compliments, as far as I can tell from observing the interactions between the people around me. One the one hand, giving someone a genuine compliment is a way to open dialog and create a warm feeling between two people. For example, I love jewelry but seldom wear it… it gets in the way at work or when I make my art. I love seeing it though, so whenever I see someone wearing an interesting piece, I make a comment about it. I keep it simple, usually just acknowledging that I see it and I like it.

On the other hand (or on the back of that hand) the criticism masked as a compliment is a time-honored way of being a jerk without being brave enough to actually say what’s on your mind. Perhaps you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, or perhaps you are dying to tell them something to “help” them but don’t feel it’s your place. A backhanded compliment is a good way to make someone feel bad without you having to take responsibility for your words.

I consider my words carefully. I am happy with myself and don’t need to make someone else feel bad so I can feel like I make a difference. I wish others would do the same, but then again, the world would be a very boring place if everyone were like me (if everyone were alike).


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