Tag Archives: compliment

When Compliments are Uncomfortable

Have you ever been praised for being humble, after which a response was expected? Have you ever been told you’re the most beautiful, or purest, or kindest, or most inspiring, (or most anything) person the compliment-giver has ever met? What is it about these kinds of praise that make sensible people cringe a bit?

It might be the hint of insincerity that accompanies statements like that. I often sense that people who dole out such hyperbolic compliments at will rarely, if ever, mean it. And it makes me wonder what runs through their heads as they utter the disingenuous words. As for praising someone for being humble, I think maybe the praise-giver doesn’t always realize just how uncomfortable that could be for the receiver – who, if she/he were truly humble, would be immensely embarrassed by such commendation.

But I will start by addressing the hyperboles. This sort of applies to one of the things I’ve noticed, living in America. You see, people claim to “love” more frequently than I had ever seen. How many times have you heard something along the lines of, “Oh! I just LOVE (insert banal object/ mediocre person here)!”? What’s wrong with saying you “like” something? Or saying that something or someone is your current favourite? I am a strong believer and perpetrator of the notion that “Love” is a strong word, which should be reserved only for when you truly and deeply love. We should refrain from throwing it around so willy-nilly. I do realize I may be fighting a lost cause here, so…I’ll just have to keep cringing inwardly whenever I get annoyed about this.

There is something about hyperbolic compliments, or expressing praise in exaggerations that make them seem so much more bogus than the speaker may have intended. Here’s a story to illustrate:

I remember my first time speaking at a Bible study group I belong to on Campus. I was so nervous, I fumbled a lot, I could hardly get the words out, my voice wasn’t loud enough to reach the back of the room at times, and there were a lot of awkward pauses and nervous stares. I led Bible study two weeks in a row, and admittedly, by the second week I had gotten a bit better at it. I was able to laugh at myself a bit more, but I wasn’t an expert by any means! After that second week, I remember a particular girl, who I’ll call Samantha for the sake of this blog, came to me and said, “That was so good! Yo! [she] should lead Bible Study every week, guys!”

A part of me knew that Samantha may have been saying that just to make me feel better about all the fumbles, (and she was not being sarcastic at all, in case you were wondering). However, I did wonder why she would go to such excessive lengths, which just made her compliment come across as insincere (Really? EVERY week?).

Fast-forward a year or two later, Samantha probably already forgot this little encounter. I was asked to lead Bible study again, and this time I was way more comfortable up there, and it was just a smoother, and dare I say, fun delivery of the message I was given (still not an expert though). Along comes Samantha, in the middle of a conversation I was having with someone else about how much of an improvement I had made from last time. Imagine my astonishment, when she chimes in something along the lines of, “oh yeah, that was kinda bad, but you were great up there this time!” My initial suspicions were confirmed at this point. You can imagine what now runs through my head every time Samantha pays me a compliment. -_-

Another uncomfortable kind of praise is when you’re lauded for your humility! As far as I know, there is no right, non-awkward way of getting out of this kind of compliment without offending anyone. Please, correct me if I’m wrong.

If you are going to praise someone for being humble, please do not say it to their faces! One of three things will happen; the person could thank you and generously accept that compliment, at which point they don’t seem that humble anymore; The person could start to explain why they are not humble, at which point you’d just wish they’d shut up and accept a compliment for goodness sake!; Or the person would not know how to react, at which point a massively awkward moment ensues.

If you’ve read up to this point, please let me know how you’d react if someone praised you for being humble, or gave you a hyperbolic compliment contaminated by insincerity.