When is a Compliment Ever Just a Compliment?

I’m a simple guy, it really doesn’t take much to please me. No, seriously, this one woman who works at a bookstore about 15 minutes from my apartment told me that she liked the way I told stories when I was talking to her and a friend of mine? Yeah, I still go back there and that was almost three years ago.

But who are we kidding, everyone likes compliments, right? I mean, an ego boost every now and then isn’t such a bad thing. Here is the bad thing though; you receive a compliment, but what happens next? Obviously, you thank the person for complimenting you as Emily Post and every mother dictates, but is it just me or does conversation kind of come to a stand still after a compliment is given? Sure, there’s that pause for you to thank that person, but it’s hard to take compliments at face value anymore.

There’s always that awkward question that rattles around inside my brain of “do I compliment them back?” I mean, it would be a nice gesture, but I was taken off guard by their compliment, so I’m totally unprepared for this. Usually I just say thank you and smile, but on the off-chance that I feel insecure enough that I’m compelled to thank them back, it’s usually a new low for me. I kid you not. Once when someone told me that I had pretty eyes, I looked at them with a blank stare for a solid 30 seconds, the wheels turning in my head as I struggled to find something. The end result? “You have nice teeth.” Not a nice smile, just the teeth evidently.

But see, this is what I’m talking about. A compliment always starts out as a nice gesture, but it turns to this awkward battle of manners between the thank you’s and the desperate search for complimentary attributes about the other person. Maybe I’m just more awkward than your average bear, but I swear, I can’t be the only one that does that little song and dance of mutual ass kissing and/or awkward silence.

In the end, what started out as something so minimal as saying something along the lines of “I like your shirt” is never taken as just that. People tend to remember compliments (or maybe I’m just egotistical?) and typically love getting them, but there’s no way around that fear of being caught off guard with no compliment to return. These are the issues, folks, right here.

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3 thoughts on “When is a Compliment Ever Just a Compliment?

  1. “Thank you. How very kind of you to say that” is somewhat of a return compliment (I think). Most people like to think they’re kind (I think).

    P.S. I like your shirt.

  2. I know exactly what you mean. Whenever I get paid a compliment (which is not too often), I’m usually thrown so off guard that I start babbling about whatever the compliment was about (nice shirt – talk about where I got it; I love your hair – talk about the history of it), only to discover as I reminisced about the experience later than the person PROBABLY didn’t give a rat’s ass about all of that…they just paid the compliment because they didn’t have anything else to say in the conversation. *sigh* I hate compliments. I mean, they’re lovely to receive, but I just hate the way they make me feel self-conscious…

  3. I was just thinking/talking about this the other day!! You took this post right out of my head! Awesome to read! 100% relatable to pretty much everyone I’m sure.

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