A Compliment Or Two

I’ve noticed something very perplexing.

When I compliment people, they think I am saying nice things just to make them feel good- by massaging their ego. In the first place, if you know me at all, you’d know that I hate- yes hate- the word nice. I don’t do nice. I feel like throwing it in boiling oil and them stamping it to death again once it is charred beyond recognition.

When I compliment you, I compliment myself, because I am who I associate with. ― Jarod Kintz

In the second place, you are wrong. Ego is too wily a thing to massage. I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. Besides, it is boring.

The impression I get from people’s reaction is that I am a Pollyanna with a strong proclivity towards people pleasing and a sizable dose of absolute cluelessness thrown in for good measure. My dear friend, if I weren’t so amused by your miscalculated assessment, I should be very angry! I might even (rudely) declare that you have mouldy rocks in your empty skull!

In all honesty though, I cannot deny the Pollyanna accusation. I am an unabashed and unapologetic Pollyanna. I think there is goodness and all things good round every corner and in all the space between one corner and the next. Sometimes I try to pretend that goodness doesn’t rain from the skies nor slide down the rays of the sun in rollicking abandon, but I know it is a lost cause even before I begin. Pretensions don’t last. Truth will out, eventually.

I was very pleased with your kind letter. Until now I never dreamed of being something like a hero. But since you’ve given me the nomination I feel that I am one. ― Albert Einstein

(Aside: I will be using the pronoun ‘you’ in the rest of the piece. It is being used to refer to that dumb nut standing over there… not YOU. Despite this, if you choose to feel offended, you have my blessings.)

When I pay you a compliment, it is because I genuinely think there is something worth appreciating in you. I am incapable of people pleasing. I couldn’t massage an ego to please a dying grandmother. Told you I wasn’t a people pleaser, didn’t I? Grandmothers are people too, in case you didn’t know. Moreover, both my grandmothers are already done with their dying and stuff. So there!

No but seriously, what is it that frightens you about my compliments? Do you think it an advance contingent (in the nature of an smelly lubricant) to announce an unreasonable demand? Do you think I am pumping you full of hot air so that you won’t notice that you are floating away to some dungeon where I will stick lighted candles between your toes before pulling out your finger nails to persuade you to sign away your two rusted cents to me? Like, really dude?

Or is your trepidation indicative of a deeper malady, hey?

I felt like everyone’s second choice, which is why a compliment could catch me off guard. ― Sonia Sotomayor

Are you frightened of my commendation because the experience is new to you? Is it because you have lived in an environment of such debilitating and virulent criticism that you cannot believe a word of sincere praise?

By suspecting me of ulterior motives, do you know the statement you are making about your own person? You are declaring that in your eyes your are unworthy of admiration and approval. Is that what you want to wear on your sleeve? Doesn’t seem frightfully cool to me, you know what I’m sayin’ hon?

I will not deny that there are people who have, let us say, a natural talent for sycophancy. They flatter and sweet- talk even when they have nothing to gain, no axe to grind. Frankly, I can’t imagine such pointless corruption. Sell your soul if you must but at least get a pork chop in return! And then for you to suspect me of it! Oh, please!

I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel they have not said enough. ― Mark Twain

To assume that everyone who pays you a compliment is a sycophant- with out without an axe to grind, doesn’t serve you. It might be true one out of ten times. To skewer your world view to accommodate as rare an aberration as that hardly seems worth the trouble. The only thing you will accomplish will be to find crookedness in absolutely straight nine people out of ten.

To accommodate one bad apple (when, if it is there), should I throw away nine perfectly good ones? Don’t  do the math. I did it and I had to be put in a padded cell for a year. Just take my word for it and desist from turning up every flat rock you encounter. Nine of them don’t have creepy crawly slugs under them. And who cares about the tenth? Not you. And this time I mean YOU, not the dumb nut standing over there. Er…. yes.

I have also noticed something else.

(Aside: I am again using the pronoun ‘you’ with the same disclaimer (and blessing) applicable as in the Aside above.)

Why do you clam up like a stuffed frog when you admire someone? Why can’t you (wo)man up and tell some poor struggling soul that you think they are the best thing you’ve met in a month of Sundays? Is it such a hardship pour a sip of this life- giving elixir down a languishing, thirsty  throat?

It is never ridicule, but a compliment, that knocks a philosopher off his feet. He is already positioned for every possible counter-attack, counter-argument, and retort…only to find a big bear hug coming his way. ― CrissJami

Do you know what happens to all the compliments that you hoard to your chest like a parsimonious blood- sucker? They turn into screaming banshees and throw you from the top of Qutub Minaar (take a pick from Eiffel Tower, Burj Khalifa, Empire State Building, Shanghai World Financial Center et al depending on your current location and stop distracting me dammit! I have work to do here!!).

Yes, they throw you from a height with nary a safety net and laugh (duly screaming) derisively while you tick off the seconds to setting new world records in plastering yourself on the pavement in the most artistic fashion. They do (throw you), trust me. And that, is not be a pretty sight. There will hardly be anything left of you to scrape up. I shouldn’t be surprised if you leave room in a teaspoon!

Collect compliments with thankfulness, grace and joy; distribute them with benevolence and pleasure. Let them move around you as light as air. Aid their circulation with a free hand.

A compliment or two makes the world such a happy place, right?

Altered Google Image
Altered Google Image


Note: If you stretch a point, an appreciative comment too can be called a compliment. Beware of the lurking banshees..! #JustSayin’

52 thoughts on “A Compliment Or Two”

  1. Oh no, that delivered the message with no punches spared. I was already imagining your dangerously glistening eyes and that Rampuri that I am scared to death about. I love compliments. I love gifts too :). Your introduction for me was a delight that brightened up many days of mine. I go back and read it often. An honest compliment puts you high up in the heaven, and you actually believe that you are the best in the world! I accept them with a gracious thanks and a song in my heart. God bless all the wonderful souls who compliment each other. Imagine, how boring and dry the world would get otherwise. Finally, tell me what brought this on? Who is the idiot who rubbed you the wrong way?

    1. There are so many of them Rachna. I mean the way people question your compliments is so annoying. Or the way they think they need to explain theirs to you… to assure you that they are sincere in saying what they are saying. This entire atmosphere of discomfort- both way- is very disconcerting to me. When you say I am good, I believe you. Why should I doubt it? Why should I think you are being insincere? Why on earth would I think you are angling for something? You praise me because I AM praiseworthy. In that, I’m like Mark Twain… 😀
      It is so gratifying when someone accepts compliments with you having to push them through with all you might. Sometimes I think people love creating a drama for the pleasure the drama gives them. 🙂

      I LOVE your comments. I Do…! <3

      1. What can I say except we human beings love to complicate matters for ourselves. I think somewhere the discomfort or apprehension stems from our own insecurity or lack of confidence. I must admit that strictly in the context of writing, when someone appreciates something that I feel I have written well and then appreciates some mediocre stuff by another in the same vein, I don’t self doubt but I feel a bit put off. The person or the compliment then does not feel real to me. You know what I mean?

        I love your comments and opinions too, Dagny!

        1. I know exactly what you mean Rachna. This is the reason that some people’s compliment mean a lot more than those of other people. To be appreciated is good but to be appreciated by a discerning reader is priceless. You know now why I tie myself into knots when you say, “Hey, this is good!” I go like, “Oh man! RACHNA said this was good! I can now feel smug.”

          Where is the pleasure in the extravagant compliments of someone who writes paeans for everyone? I shake my head and say, “Hmmm! Sticky business, that.” And move on past them.

  2. Ouch, that hit hard 🙂 But you are right, most find it tough to accept compliments. I think it a lack of self confidence that leads to that. I promise, I will keep this post in mind next time someone compliments me 🙂

  3. Hi, As I started reading, I thought it would be a philosophical post on complimenting (like mine would have been!) but I was thrown away. And I loved it. These were my favorite sentences ” I don’t do nice. I feel like throwing it in boiling oil and them stamping it to death again once it is charred beyond recognition.” and “Collect compliments with thankfulness, grace and joy; distribute them with benevolence and pleasure. Let them move around you as light as air. Aid their circulation with a free hand.” Superb command over the language, if I may compliment you. That YOU made me sit up straight and say “Yes, maam!” And I am still laughing but the super part is, I got the message.

    1. Poornima, Welcome to my blog!

      Thank you for quoting those lines, they came from the core of me. And thank you for your compliment, I am pleased as punch. Do you always comment like this… connecting with the blogger at such a comfortable level? It feels so good. Please allow me to pat your back. 🙂

      Thank you very much for coming by. 🙂

  4. OOOOO…. Tight fisted punches Dagny. Whosoever got the blows must be bleeding from his soul right now. Loved the directness, the attack, the not so nice nature of the post 🙂

    1. Thank you Jas. Some of the things I too am guilty of at times. So this is not a post directed at one person… but at many of us. I am so pleased you liked the in-your-face post. 😀

  5. Loved the tone in this post…oh I pity ‘you’ (applicable as in your aside),who can’t receive or give the joy of a genuine compliment! Love, love Mark Twain’s quote 😀

    1. Aditi, I loved Mark Twain’s quote too. The man was something else! And of course, many a true word are spoken in jest. 😀
      Thank you for coming by 🙂

  6. A sensitive topic… and you’ve explored it from many angles.

    But what do those bloggers presume if you aren’t even reading their posts… (…and complimenting is a few miles away from commenting)? Look at bloggers like me waiting in the dark for veterans like you to turn and just look at what we have been writing all this while.

    Arvind Passey

    1. Your rebuke is justified Arvind. It has been duly noted. Corrective action will surely be taken soonest. Thank you for your patience. And for reading me despite laxness on my part. 😀

    1. Thank you Tiku. Your forte are raw, from the heart posts and haunting poems. I couldn’t write like you in a million years. I love to read your posts. I think we both do a good job in our respective areas. Thank God for it. 🙂

      1. 🙂 Yes, Dagny. If I did not write the way I do I will burst. In last many years my blog is the place where i go and pour out my heart. That’s the way the songbird sings.

  7. Dagny, this is a terrific post, said with no sycophantic meaning at all. Your point of view mirrors my own. Is it that our compliments are taken with insincerity because when the recipient gives his own it is also said with insincerity? Must everything we do have an ulterior motive? How sad if this is one’s only frame of reference. Human interaction is not to be judged purely in terms of a transaction. BTW, I don’t do nice either.

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head! They mistrust our appreciation because they are themselves insincere in their appreciation of others. A narrow frame of reference of this kind is indeed pathetic. Imagine bringing a spoonful of water from a bounteous river when she would willing have given her all.
      You couldn’t have done nice, you just couldn’t have! You lack the organ with which to acquire a taste for ‘nice’ 🙂
      It’s been so long since I ‘heard’ your voice here. April’s comin’ soo with it’s AtoZ Challenge. 😀

      1. April is coming and I’ll be doing the Challenge for the third time. Will you be participating this year? And thank you for your comments bout me and niceness. I have quite a bit if trouble with “nice” people in the past.

        1. Oh well, I am glad I am not nice in that case. You won’t have any trouble with me at all.
          I am planning to take the challenge this time. I did manage to write 25 posts last year even though they weren’t on a particular letter of the alphabet. Maybe I’ll do the same thing again. 🙂
          I look forward to reading your posts. Last year’s posts were awesome.

  8. A compliment when showered can be assessed or evaluated by the person receiving it. And with whatever little interaction I have had with you so far, I can say your compliments or even simple comments mean a lot to me. They are honest and heartfelt. I know it. I don’t think that it has to be proved by either you or me to anyone. 🙂

    1. Ah Rekha! If only there were more people like you in the world. How simple and happy a haven it would have been.

      Thank you for being so sensible. It is such a relief! 😀

  9. Whoa! that made me breathless. Really. We thrive on attention and appreciation that is a given but here in the blogging world, “you scratch my back, I will scratch yours” being the motto, I tend to brush the compliments off. A well known blogger whom I considered my mentor used to praise my writing. I took it as an encouragement. We had a fall out and she went ahead and blogged about how crappy my writing was! A huge blow I must admit. That hurt me a lot…why did she have to lie? I was seriously unaware that people were so insecure. It still takes me sometime to digest that people actually like my writing.

    “I think there is goodness and all things good round every corner and in all the space between one corner and the next.”… I believe in this myself.

    And it is my nature that if someone praises me too much, I blush and hide.

    1. Isn’t it good that you had a fallout with that blogger? Somehow lacking in sweetness and light? Or maybe she felt chagrined about something. Still, to praise something once and then to turn around a pan it is not quite cricket. Civilized niceties frown upon such pointless duplicity.
      I like your writing. That story you sent me, very effectively and economically done. 🙂
      Honestly, I too don’t like to be praised overmuch. Lets keep our feet on the ground I feel. 🙂

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  11. That was some tough talking Dagny but i loved the directness,the hitting hard tone. Giving and taking compliments both don’t come easily to some of us.compliments are such positive things why to negate . Is it the fear that they will be needed to return or the cause is low esteem of self.
    mark Twain showed us the way.

  12. Wish I could say it like you did here, Dagny! Me – I either clown around as in “Praise Me” or write dead serious stuff which no-one reads. This mix of humor while making a serious point absolutely evades me 🙂 (NO! I am NOT fishing for compliments. If there is one thing I know about you by now, it is that you eat the bait and spit out the line when I fish AND hand out compliments when I least expect it. AND, yes, I treasure your compliments because they come ONLY when YOU feel I deserve it)

    I AM a Pollyanna! I like complimenting people cos even when they think it is mere flattery it still makes them happy – at least to know that I think enough of them to want to flatter them – and I prefer spreading happiness (Any criticism I keep for private messages and only to people who are close enough to me). When was the last time you troubled to flatter that absolutely disastrous subordinate of yours? 🙂 (This ‘yours’ has that same disclaimer that you kept repeating 🙂 ) The one thing, though, is that my compliments are always honest – if I can compliment an entire ensemble, honestly, I do that – otherwise, I pick on that lovely hanky to compliment even if all the rest is a total eyesore 🙂 So, yes, i do do ‘nice’, particularly in public. If I cannot say anything positive I stay quiet – again especially in any public forum.

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and all that jazz 🙂 Unfortunately, it has mostly been do unto others so far – the world seems to believe that what would be an improving experience to me to hear in private is also something that would make me dance with joy when said in public 🙂 I have yelled and screamed about it – and the net result is that they whisper their compliments in sotto voce dulcet tones into my shell like ears 🙂

    Looks like I have written a post as a comment 🙂

    1. The thing is Suresh, you are a kind hearted man. You can’t bear to wound people’s sensitivities. You hope people will get the point with you being subtle. I love that about you. You are an out and out (fellow) Pollyanna. And a patient one to boot.
      I am not so ‘nice’. I’m more like a bee in fact… I sting.
      You say that you cannot make a serious point under cover of jest. I am sorry but I can’t agree. As evidence I present this post: http://jambudweepam.blogspot.in/2013/04/the-importance-of-hypocrisy.html and this one: http://jambudweepam.blogspot.in/2013/03/riding-hobbyhorses.html.

      I rest my case.

      You cannot be blamed if people only laugh at your tongue-in-cheek wit and humor and ignore the crux of the post. It is so much easier going hahaha and leaving the rest. The hahahas goes down the throat so much easier.

      Here’s wishing you more and more dulcet whisperings in the years to come.

      You comment humbled me. From a writer of your expertise, the compliments sound so much sweeter. Thank you for letting me bask in the light of your appreciation. It feel wonderful! 😀

      1. When did you ever depart, Dagny? 🙂 It has just been that December and January have been my months of staying away from the net – and thus are the months when I miss out on all my fav blogs.

        AND – here is the ‘pehle aap; pehle aap’ part 🙂 I am humbled by the fact that some of my posts left such a lingering impression on you.

        1. Now I declare he fishes for a compliment!
          Your posts always make a lasting impression on me. I may not always comment, but they stay with me for ages. Some just meld with the uneven structures within. Thus I evolve. 🙂

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  14. I really don’t know what it is. Embarrassment at being praised. Perhaps too much cynicism. Whatever it is, as a race, we have a problem receiving and giving praise. I only noticed it when I was in the US and an American well-wisher, who had observed me for a while, told me to never hem and haw and look sideways etc etc when someone pays a compliment. Receive it confidently and say Thank You. That’s all there is to it.
    I have never forgotten that lesson.

    Great post. And, may I also say, a very substantial one, too!

    1. I think we have been conditioned into believing that denying your own talents and goodness is humility- thus desirable. I am at war with that mindset on many levels. If you examine it closely, it is such footling rot!

      I am glad you accept compliments gracefully. Refreshing change, big relief. At least with you I wont have to struggle. 🙂

  15. I read this the other day and tweeted it too, but couldn’t comment for some reason, Dagny. WP does act up sometimes – or maybe it’s my browser – or just the heat rising off from your strong words, perhaps? 😉
    Thank you for being so generous with your praise and compliments. Having been at the receiving end of them over the past few years – I can safely say you’re in a class by yourself. Too bad if someone decided to question your intentions – their loss entirely!

    1. Thank you so much for tweeting it Corinne. I wonder why twitter didn’t inform me of it though. 🙁 These sites and their unreasonable glitches! But we shouldn’t really complain. Our lives have been changed at no direct cost to us. Thank God!

      This piece wasn’t directed at any particular person. I have seen this reluctance of accept compliment in almost everyone- sometimes even in myself. The person paying the compliment has to work so hard to push it down your throat! It’s like they are making you swallow a bitter pill instead of something sweet, for cryin’ out loud!

      So pleased to see you here! <3

  16. Perplexed, scared, embarrassed,not knowing how to react when one receive compliment!!!! Oh boy what a dicey situation that used to be!When we go deep into that emotion and analyze this i realize its rooted because of the scars and bleeding wounds caused due to rejection and failure which makes you to doubt your own shadow! It takes loads of efforts to bring your mind to normalcy and accept the compliment with graceful smile!

    1. You have summed it up well Vaish. Wounds cause by criticism generate a miring feeling of rejection that takes a tremendous effort to come out of. 🙂
      So good to see you here, always. 🙂

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  18. hahaha someone pissed you off real bad, didn’t they? Kya post tha! But that remark, ‘you may even leave the room in a teaspoon’ that really got me laughing so hard my husband came into the room to see if something was wrong 😀

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