Now for those of you that have read me before, you may know my history with the whole complimenting dilemma. Like, I understand at the heart of it that it’s a sincere gesture and I appreciate people wanting to take the time to compliment me. Really, it’s very nice of them. The problem is I never really know what to do with them. I mean, obviously you thank the person, but after that, it’s an etiquette gray area. If you’re interested in my entire philosophy on it, just click However, after last night, it dawned on me that it’s not just that I’m not good at receiving them… evidently, I’m not very good at giving them either.
Last night when it was time for class to go on break, I was leaving the room to grab a drink of water. As I walked, my eye was drawn to a young woman from class. She was wearing a very simple dress, but it was brightly colored and, knowing my ADHD tendency to fixate on anything brightly colored, I couldn’t stop staring. In a surprising display of courage, I spoke.
“I really like your…” I began. Was it a shirt? Was it a dress? She was sitting down so it was hard to tell if she was wearing a belt or if that was part of the dress. By this time, the silence was awkward and noticeable as my voice just trailed off. “… dress, shirt, whatever.” I said quietly.
She looked at me with a quizzical look on her face. Rightfully so. I’m pretty sure in most cultures what I had just said didn’t really pass for recognizable speech. “Your…” I began again, before realizing I still didn’t have words for what she was wearing. “… that.”
I pointed at her, unknowingly making the unfortunate choice of pointing at her chest. Realizing my social faux pas, I began to wag my finger up and down to gesture that I was talking about her entire body. “The colors… they’re bright…”
Now, I’ve never pretended to be eloquent, but even I was mortified at the verbal vomit that I just couldn’t stop spewing.
She looked at me, with a little bit of trepidation. Why wouldn’t she? I sounded like I had severe brain damage mixed with an unlikely case of tourettes. She sort of half-smiled before issuing a half-hearted “thanks.”
In a single moment, my command of the English language and entirely failed me and I had managed to alienate a classmate that I’d really meant to compliment. Moral of the story? Compliments don’t really work on either end for me, evidently.