Sunday, September 14, 2008


Have you ever received a compliment and not been 100% totally sure how to respond? Well, how about a compliment at the giver's expense? Compliments such as: "I'd love to have your legs!". or "I wish I could have a flat stomach like you but I've had two kids". I don't profess these comments out of arrogance, pride or even a lack of humility - quite the opposite. I provide this information out of an honest desire to provide the giver the answer to what they are requesting, which is typically, "How'd you get like that?". I find that often times when people offer compliments at their expense, they are desirous of the magic bullet or the quick route they perceive is the answer...and it's never a quick never,ever is. I do it all the time when I admire something about someone else - but I've also become quick to begin my compliment with "I'm humble enough to admit" for example "... that I envy your lifestyle...or that I'd love to have your abs."

A few months back my husband and I were at dinner and while in the ladies room, two women approached me and asked who did my hair and who my personal trainer was. That made me stand up straighter and pull my shoulders back! That was a great night! It felt good, but at the same time, I was being asked for a solution to two things: either a new hair style or color, and how to shape up and get leaner. I was only prepared for the first question. It's easy to roll someone else's name of your tongue (my hairstylist), but how do you say, without sounding arrogant or less than humble, that my body is my own masterpiece, and it's a work in progress? (Ooooo - I like the way that sounds - a work in progress!). Maybe that's just how you say it. But to offer that information, you're almost acknowledging that the giver or the questioner, is flawed and that you have the answer.

I am 110% overly sensitive to the feelings of those around me - which is probably why I abhor people who lack humility, a natural sense of "realness", and who ooze arrogance. Can't you just envision the slimy green goopy arrogance oozing from the pores of someone who just feels or acts superior? Ugh!

I recently read that an appropriate response to a compliment at the giver's expense, such as those I mentioned above, is this: "Thanks, but no body's perfect." And how true is that! At the gym today, I was flailing through an unplanned workout, which is simply the worst feeling. I was ending with a few sets of split squats on the Smith Rack with very low weight. I noticed that the woman on the leg press next to me was watching me. I was totally self conscious, so I made eye contact to ease my own insecurities - specifically because whether it was the shorts I had on or the ice cream from the night before, to me, my quads looked huge today, and not in a good way! I'd seen this woman before and knew her to be new to the gym and from what I could tell, new to exercise. I said hello, and she engaged me with one of those compliments..."Can I tell you...", she said, "...yours is the body I'd love to have". I quickly pulled out my recently learned response and replied "Thank you, but trust me, no body is perfect!". It brought a smile to her face and a nice conversation thereafter. I got her name, and made a nice new acquaintance. And before I ended my conversation with her, I made sure to compliment her back by indicating that I'd noticed how hard she worked when she was at the gym, and at times, I wish I had her intensity. Good deed for the day done - and a true compliment at that.

Compliments are a great thing, when they're not at the giver's expense, unless perhaps qualified or specified. What I mean is that if I'm going to give a compliment, it should be straightforward, graceful or with finesse, and without any attachments. "That color is great on you!". "Your arms look fantastic." "I love your new car! I bet you're really proud!". See, no strings. Not..."Your arms look fantastic. I wish mine didn't look like bat wings", or "I love your new car. It really puts mine to shame." Think about it next time to give a compliment. And if your compliment is truly meant to ask the recipient a question - just ask the question - no need to belittle yourself. Find a bit of old Ben Franklin's humility. You will feel better because you organized your words a little more strategically, and the recipient will feel better, as it's easier to answer a question than to defend the compliment so that you can spare the implied insecurities of the giver.

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