This may seem like an odd topic for a blog post, but hear me out. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about making and maintaining relationships, and I’ve started to notice some similarities in what it takes to be good at relationships. I’m no relationship expert or guru by any means, and I think I have much to learn, but I thought we could reflect on a very simple concept and how that effects our relationships: Compliments.
Let’s be honest, we all love receiving compliments. We love it so much, in fact, that we try to hide how much we love it by acting like we don’t love it and downplaying the compliment or blowing it off all together by portraying some weird sense of humility. Or maybe we are just socially awkward and don’t understand the how to learn to receive a compliment or how important it is that we learn this skill.
No matter the case, many of us really don’t understand the art of giving and receiving compliments. We’ve all been on the receiving end of awkwardly placed or worded compliments, right? The one that comes across really creepy or over-eager. The one that feels more like a back-handed compliment. How about the sarcastic compliment? It’s hard to learn how to properly give and receive compliments when there are so many bad examples, and not a lot of good ones.
A Little Background
More recently I’ve found myself reading more books and learning from people who are actually experts in this field, and I’ve begun to actually get better at communicating. One of the best times to use compliments is during small talk. I’ve always been awful at small talk. To be honest, small talk actually gave me intense anxiety. So I would avoid it at all costs. If I saw someone who was on my outer circle of acquaintances at, say, the grocery store, I’d pretend I didn’t see them and walk the other direction. I’d go out of my way to avoid them in the hope that they wouldn’t/didn’t see me. I’d make excuses about my behavior to those closest to me and say that I’m just an ass and hated people and talking to people. (You can read more on this from a previous post here )
But the truth was much simpler than that: Conversations terrified me.
I’ve rarely been honest to myself or anyone else about a reality for me in my life. I’ve begun to realize over the last couple of years that I suffer from intense anxiety. Social interactions or social situations cause me much emotional and mental anxiety. I’m so uncomfortable that for a long time I just chose to avoid them all together. If there was ever a serious conflict between me and another person or people group, I’d cut them out all together and avoid the situation at all costs rather than face it and have to deal with people and their emotions and actually try to resolve the issue. In the process I’ve hurt many people in my life and lost many really great friends.
So how did someone who was terrified to go in public learn about compliments? Well, I used to be the one who gave and received them very poorly. I would try to be nice and give a compliment to a female, for example, and it would come across forced. This would make her feel like there must be ulterior motives and would make her uncomfortable. Eventually I just stopped trying. But I realized there was an inability to connect with people.
How To Give A Compliment
The hard truth is that if you don’t make an emotional connection with someone in the first 2 minutes of conversation, they probably aren’t going to like you, and will write you off in their mind. This can be a bad thing if you work in sales, customer service, or have any relationships with any other people in your life ever, or intend to at any point in your life. So learn to give compliments. The easy way to do this is simply to PRACTICE! Keep it light and neutral.
“Hey did you get a hair cut? It looks so good today!”
“I love those boots! Where did you get them?”
“Wow you look great? Have you lost weight?”
(only use this one if you know them pretty well, obviously)
I’ve found that if you make someone feel good about themselves, you have a much greater chance of them liking you, and trusting you. This is extremely beneficial in job positions where you deal with people regularly, but sometimes even more important in relationships you care about and want to foster and grow. When people make the connection in their mind between you and feeling good, they will like you. Period.
How To Receive A Compliment
I believe this is equally, if not more important than giving compliments. You may not realize it, but when you try to play the humility card and blow off someone’s complement by saying things like “haha you’re funny”, or “I’m glad you think so”, you actually are rejecting their efforts of trying to connect with you.
Here is a common interaction that happens:
Person 1: You look so pretty today!
Person 2: HAHA Whatever! I look so rough!
Person 1: Ok, well I don’t think you look rough.
Person 2: Haha you’re so funny. I’m glad you think so.
Person 1: ……………………..
What happens in conversational transactions like this is that person 2 invalidates the opinion and compliment of person 1. This makes person 1’s efforts seem defeated, which will make them feel rejected. Good luck getting person 1 to try and make that effort to connect with you again. This will ultimately cause that person to no longer feel connected to you and will ultimately lead to the demise of the relationship.
This type of transaction typically happens when a guy is trying to be nice and compliment a woman. So ladies, learn to accept compliments! You will be liked by more people, and a simple “thank you” goes a long way and doesn’t make you come across as conceited or self-obsorbed. Promise. (The simple response also shuts down guys with ACTUAL ulterior and more sinister motives who are looking for attention from you. So its a win/win.)
Guys often blow off compliments too. Their common phrase will be more imbedded. It will look more like “I’m glad you think so”. Guys typically take on an “agree to disagree” method, which makes the other person feel inferior, ignorant, or stupid. So guys, learn to simply say “thanks” and it’ll go a long way in people feeling a sense of connection, and ultimately trusting you and respecting you more.
The reality is that if someone is willing to go out on a limb and compliment you, you should receive it with grace and confidence, and move on. Learn to reciprocate with a compliment when appropriate. Don’t just compliment because they complimented you. It almost always comes across as insincere when we do this, which does more harm than good.
I think that’s about it for this topic. I don’t know how helpful this is to you. You may have already known most of this. I intend for this post to serve more as a reminder that the way we interact and communicate with one another really means a lot. If we can get better at this, we will have stronger and more meaningful relationships. In today’s culture, we are losing the art of communication very quickly. We trade meaningful conversations with texts. We’ve traded grammar for emojis. We are quickly becoming colder and more distant as a generation. So let’s not forget the importance of face to face conversations and real life relationships. Because in the end that’s all we really have.