I realised something about myself recently – I compliment people, a lot.
When I was younger I used to use complimenting people as a way of breaking the ice. I was painfully shy in social situations (not great when you work in PR) and I found that if I complimented someone on something, it opened up a conversation. Suddenly I wasn’t standing there by myself anymore.
As I’ve got older my shyness has decreased, but I still like to use complimenting people as a way of starting a conversation with a mum in a playground that I don’t know well or at a godforsaken children’s party.
I find offering a compliment makes for a much more interesting conversation than moaning about children or talking about the weather*.
Based on my highly scientific research (tongue planted in cheek) I’ve noticed that men take compliments, women rebuff. 99% of the compliments I give to women, they’re responded to with variations on ‘this old thing’, ‘I’m a bit fat at the mo..’ ‘it’s not as nice as….’. Why is the response to, ‘you look lovely in that dress’, ‘oh, I feel really fat, this was a way of covering it up’. Why not, ‘thanks, that’s a nice thing to say’?
I’m just as bad. A friend of mine recently complimented me by saying the following, ‘you speak ever so eloquently’. Faced with a compliment I couldn’t rebuff with ‘this old thing’… I was forced to accept it. So all I could say was, ‘thanks, that’s kind’. It was quite refreshing. Therefore I’ve resolved to attempt to compliment people on less physical things, an element of their persona for example, such as manners and see where that takes me. Although, if I do like your lipstick I’m still going to tell you (I need to know where they’re from!).
I get quite a joy out of complimenting people, and it can make for interesting insights into other people’s lives, but I don’t hear many other people doing the same thing.
So I challenge you to do two things this week 1) compliment someone, 2) accept a compliment gracefully. Let me know how you get on!
*Maybe don’t go as far as I did on one occasion, where I practically chased a woman down a street to tell her how good she looked in the jeans she was wearing. It sounded like a chat up line, she was embarrassed, I was very red faced. Not the best compliment given, but I bet she held her head high for the rest of the day.