Wednesday, May 31, 2006

How not to give a compliment

They'd been married about twelve years. He had just given a great talk, even though he hated public speaking.

She said "You used to give such lousy talks" and he cut her off and walked away, face grim.

"But I was just trying to compliment him" she said to me. "I wanted to point out the wonderful progress he had made."

Instead of responding to that, I asked her how she was getting along with her mother. Every time she had a talk with her mother at church, one would find her in the hall in tears.

She looked at me and then she got it, kind of. "Your mom gives you compliments the same way you tried to compliment your husband. You've had about thirty years to learn to appreciate that method, your husband has had only twelve." She really got it.

If you try to compliment anyone on making progress, and you start by piling on the fertilizer, your target will only feel covered in fertilizer, they won't feel complimented and they will not feel nourished.

If starting with a criticism of the past hasn't worked yet in complimenting those around you and making them feel happy, give it up. Insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This particular pattern (point out how terrible someone was in the past in order to set up a "my, you've improved and are doing better" compliment) is usually generational and it fails in every generation. But too many people fail to realize that what their parents do to them that leaves them in tears, won't work any better on other people.

Usually the method will not make anyone feel complimented, loved or appreciated. It only makes them feel like fertilizer.

Don't let it take you twelve years of inflicting pain, and thirty years of getting pain, anger and stale fertilizer to learn not to make a compliment by making a comparison with the past.

Yes to "You've come a long way" or "you are really doing well."

No to "You used to be a failure, but you've come a long way and are doing well." You will lose your audience at "...a failure" and will never get them back. You've lost them before the transition, and as much as you want to blame them, it is your fault, not theirs.

BTW, I'm so glad I never had to deal with that sort of thing from my parents. Learning things like this has only made me happier with them.

"Mushaboom" by Feist is happy.

You can visit her official site here, and the CD, which I bought for my wife for a birthday present, is here. (Ok, I confess, I shop Amazon used CDs and DVDs all the time, and even buy one once in a while).

Be happy.


Stephen said...

My thanks to:

Bookslinger said...

We spend our childhood getting messed up by the programming of our parents. And we spend the rest of our lives undoing the damage.

It wasn't until I was 42 that I realized how fully I had become my father. But I had not become the respectable man that he was in the workplace and in the community.

I had become the monster that he was within the four walls of our home.

Stephen said...

I am so sorry for you bookslinger.

My parents escaped the trap of being like their parents at great cost, and I strive to be like my own parents.

I wish you well in your own escape.

The Absent Minded Housewife said...

No...thank you!

You're a good man putting up with the kitties.

Anonymous said...

I loved that song. I had never heard it before. Great post about compliments.

Bookslinger said a word that I have pondered a lot As a teenager, I had a couple of incidents where I behaved in a terrible way to my mom and I remember at least one was of physical violence from me to her. I thought nobody would like me if they really knew me because I was a monster if I did something like that. And although I was in part protecting myself because I think she was going to tell my dad something, it was not excused. I do not think my dad would have beaten me with what she was going to say and he may not even had a rage. I was just so upset that acted like a tattle tale. Also, I was so upset when she would make me go painting with my dad when he had violent rages about such things as the scaffolding not being level. My dad seemed like a monster to me. If you label a person as a monster though, you dismiss the good that a person tries to do and also ignore what may be chemical imbalance problems, or problems with their being abused that they are passing down as they never learned a better way. Call a person a monster and you do not feel there is hope. There are some very evil people in this world. There are a lot of people that have a lot of regrets for the abuses that they have done. People can love the people they abuse no matter how unhealthy the manifestations of their abuse are. People need help and callning someone a monster does not encourage a person to seek treatment. Yes, we must hate the sin of child abuse or parent abuse. And I am ashamed for my past. And I hope that I am not the same person that I was then realizing though that there are no guarantees that I will never show such behavior again. With my ocd, I have had moments of mood swings that I behaved in a bad way. Over all, I am not a moody person compared to a lot of people I have known. My misisonary companions used to compliment me for being able to forgive on the spot. I may be embarassed later for signing my name. But I will do so to give a name(nobody knows my face here) to someone who has has believed she was a monster and that nobody could love her. I felt the love of God even before I found the Restored Gospel. And I knew he knew me as bad as I was. And he loved me first.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to say that I have come to understand my dad a lot better. And I don't think he has much of a concept of his rages. It probably a lot a chemical imbalance. I read in Prevention about a person who had such rages and was able to learn to control them more through his wife's help. My dad is the type that is the champion for the underdog. He believes in Civil Justice. He fought to get his father-in-law out of a nursing home. He loves his family. I do not know if I would have come to these conclusions if I had not seen first hand a lot of the good he does such as calling somebody who he has had no contact with for 20 years to let them know about a vitamin supplement. He does not sell them but only calls because he cares about people being healthy. He has a BA in business and a minor in psychology as well as two years of law school. He did not finish the third year due to finance problems at the time, but planned to go back. He did have a good job for years at Union Pacific. Now he drives a cab. And he a person is not defined by occupation but what who are they are. My dad is generous to a fault and I mean fault..... And he would try to save someone on their death bed if it were in his power. He cares so much about people and their health. And he is the strongest and most radical Democrat that I know. And liberal is not a bad word where I come from. :) My dad is different for sure. And I love him so much.

Anonymous said...

Stephen, I know that just because you post about 12 Step all the time that you blog is not my personal group therapy session. I actually only went to one group therapy session in my lifetime--long story---

I will probably just read comments much of the time as I seem to get a little out of control when I post. I will be reading and posting every so often in a less open way.

Stephen said...


I don't mind your posts and comments at all.

Anonymous said...

Thanks you. I just wrote a a friend of mine saying that I am going to have a vent free zone for a time. And I am glad to report that I am in a good frame of mind. I think it is good to vent in due season. It is all about the balance.

Stephen said...

btw, truthlaidbear, the ecosystem has me at:

Rank: # 4758
Stephen M (Ethesis)
a Flappy Bird

I'm pleased. I know, it is silly, but I'm pleased none-the-less.

Now I can retire.