`Who's making personal remarks now?' the Hatter asked triumphantly. ~from Lewis Carroll's Alice in WonderlandThe Wall Street Journal has a thought-provoking article about how compliments can hurt, saying:
Ah, compliments. We crave them, especially from certain people. We bridle when we don't receive them and chafe when they are backhanded. We often have trouble accepting them graciously. Yet we remember the good ones, and the backhanded ones, for a very, very long time.
As children, most of us were taught by our mothers and teachers that offering up a flattering remark to someone else is easy. Sadly, that was a lie. In the real world, there's a fine art to giving—and receiving—a well-tailored compliment.Advice is given on how to give a worthy compliment:
• Be sincere. (Enough said.)It is good to keep in mind the old practice of being careful of not making remarks that are too personal, even kind remarks, to anyone, especially to those who are mere acquaintances. According to Emily Post:
• Be selective. Think Goldilocks: You don't want your compliment to be too big or too small. You want it to be just right.
• Be specific. Don't say: "You look pretty today." Say: "That sweater really brings out the color of your eyes."
• Show impact. Tell the person how they have positively affected you. So instead of "I like your column today, Elizabeth, try: "Your story made me run right out and compliment a stranger."
• Just say thank you. When you receive a compliment, be gracious, not self-deprecating. Take the remark for what you want it to be. And don't worry about praising the person in return. It's a compliment, not a volley.
Personal compliments, however, are proper only from a close friend. No acquaintance, unless she is quite old, should ever make personal remarks. An old lady or gentleman might very forgivably say “You don’t mind, my dear, if I tell you how sweet I think you look,” or “What a pretty frock you have on.” But it is bad taste for a young woman to say to another “What a handsome dress you have on!” and worst of all to add “Where did you get it?” The young girl’s particular friends are, of course, apt to tell her that her dress is wonderful, or more likely, “simply divine.”Share