Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Recognition and Appreciation (2) – Compliments

In response to yesterday’s blog on recognition and appreciation, a friend wrote to me that she doesn’t like compliments as she feels she doesn’t deserve them. She prefers action rather than words. Actually, a recent article in Psychology Today confirms her statement to me: Why women can’t accept compliments. Compliments do have a weird effect on people. Why?

The sheer number of Psychology Today articles on compliments (Google) is worrisome in itself. Apparently, it already starts by the art of making a compliment, then it’s about the translation from hearing what was said to listening what was meant, then it’s about whether or not to accept the compliment, and finally it’s about how to respond to a compliment. It is kind of amazing (to me) that compliments comprise of a full cycle of communication.

I suppose reverse psychology (see my 16 April 2015 blog) plays an important role in compliments. People often mean – or hear – something else than what was said. And that is where the complication starts. The sender of a compliment may apply reverse psychology but the receiver may also assume this. Unfortunately, this gives 4 different situations and only one (1) instance in which both sender and receiver understand each other correctly – or a 25% probability.

I wouldn’t be surprised if reverse psychology is a reason why women can’t accept compliments. In my view, women are natural experts in – applying and hearing – reverse psychology. PT: “According to one study, “only 22 percent of compliments given from one woman to another were accepted.” Before we assume that women simply don’t know how to receive compliments, the study found that they accepted compliments from men 40 percent of the time”.

The Dutch article from Psychology Magazine on recognition and appreciation also mentions 2 other aspects: the timing of the compliments and the (non) repetitive nature of its wording. Compliments need to be given/received on a timely basis. Using the exact same phrase each time, erodes the sincerity of the compliments.

I think, feel and believe there is another important reason for not giving compliments. While male-to-male compliments are rather straightforward and could easily be packaged into a joke to soften the loss of power, female-to-female compliments are often most dangerous. Unfortunately, male-to-female and female-to-male compliments are prone to misunderstandings given the potential alleged sexual implications. Even in relationships, compliments may imply a quid pro quo – or in Dutch: “voor wat, hoort wat”.

Given the above you could wonder why we even bother giving compliments. Actually, many people don’t often give compliments. Probably because you need to think too much and too long about them. Before you know it, the moment is gone.

Eurythmics – Would I Lie To You? (1985) – artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


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