I was recently catching up with a couple of girlfriends. One is tall and slim, and the other is a little shorter and curvier.
During a lull in the conversation, my short friend looked over at my tall friend and sighed out of nowhere, “Man I wish I had your figure! You look amazing in that dress.”
She obviously meant it as a compliment, but it didn’t really come out that way. It almost sounded like an accusation. My tall friend looked noticeably uncomfortable and she tried to laugh it off by replying, “No you don’t – my jeans are always too short!”
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I didn’t think much of it, until my tall, slender friend later admitted that she hates when people compare themselves to her, even when it’s intended to be nice.
To be honest, at first I thought she was over-reacting. Just accept the compliment already! First world problem, much?
Then she went on to explain, “You can’t accept a compliment like that, or you’re essentially agreeing that you look better than someone else. The only way you can react is by putting yourself down.
She added that if she’d said, “Thanks, I’ve been working out a lot recently,” it would have implied she thought our other friend wasn’t exercising.
Or if she’d said that it was all genetics, it could have sounded as though she agreed that she looked amazing while also downplaying our friend’s own body insecurities.
So, she feels like her only ‘out’ is to put herself down by highlighting her own insecurities, or risk looking like a jerk.
I pondered her analysis, then I realised I’m guilty of the same – as a compliment giver and a compliment receiver.
Instead of telling some, “You’re really good at this!” I often frame it in a way that says, “You’re better at this than me.” Way to make the conversation all about me, Queen Narcissus…
By doing this, you’re not really giving someone a compliment at all. In fact, it only really serves to put you down while making the other person uncomfortable. Nobody wins.
Meanwhile if someone compliments me, I’m quick to point out the short cut that made it possible. “Nice dress,” my friend might say. “Thanks – it was a size too big but it was half price and who can resist a bargain, right?”
Why can’t I just accept the compliment already?!
It must be a female thing. Because my husband doesn’t seem to have a problem receiving any form of positive feedback – non-compliments and all!
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