Thoughts on… compliments

I have recently come to realise that I’m not very good with compliments – giving or receiving them. I guess it’s probably because of my Aspergers, but I’m very sceptical about compliments.

Before I continue, this article isn’t intended for anyone in particular. It’s more for me to ‘hash it out’ so I can learn from it and if anyone does come across it then it will explain to them why I’m not very good with compliments and they’ll know that I’m not just being rude or anything.

Receiving Compliments
I often get compliments and I do really love it when people like something I’m wearing – I do make an effort to dress smartly – or something I’ve designed. The trouble is, whenever someone compliments me, I over analyse it and get suspicious of them. Why are they saying that? Do they really mean it? Are they expecting me to return the compliment? Why are they saying this now? Are they being sarcastic? How should I respond to that? They’ve mentioned that before, why are they saying it again? Why are they so nice? Is this flirting? It never occurs to me that they might just be a nice person who genuinely likes something.

I would say that I’m quite a modest person and when it comes to my work – be it design, music or writing – I’m quite critical. I’m not really self deprecating, I do know that my work is often good, but I’m generally critical of my own stuff. I often feel my designs aren’t as strong as they should be and my songs aren’t anywhere near as good a standard as other musicians, so when people do like them I do question their judgement. I do like some of my work though. I write my songs and written stuff to entertain myself, so if I really like something then I know it’s probably quite good and I will share it.

The weird thing is, I thrive off praise and positive feedback, so when someone likes one of my songs or a client praises a design I’ve done, it really makes me happy.

Responding to Compliments
As I’ve said, I get very sceptical when people compliment me, and with my mind going crazy analysing it, I struggle to think how to respond. My default is to either be polite and say ‘thank you’ or to say something self deprecating. With the latter, it’s a mix of truing to sound modest and pretending I’m not excited about the compliment just in case they’re being sarcastic or don’t really mean it.

I also don’t really understand whether you’re supposed to compliment people back when they compliment you. If someone says ‘I like your hat’ and you don’t say you like something they’re wearing, does that come across as rude? But then if you do reply with ‘Thanks, I like yours’ then surely that just makes it sound like you’re only saying it because they said they liked yours and you don’t really mean it.

Overly Nice
Sometimes there are people that are very nice people and that’s nice, but again, when they’re too nice – complimenting everything I do and making out to others that I’m some kind of genius – I kind of lose trust in their opinion a bit.

I know they’re just being nice and some people share a similar sense of humour and so they do like my songs/poems/jokes, but when they seem to like everything I do, it makes me think they just like it because they’re my friend or something.

Giving Compliments
As you’ll have gathered by now, I find it very difficult accepting compliments, so naturally giving them is equally as challenging for me because all of the questions that I think about when I get a compliment, I also think about before I give a compliment.

I like to think that I’m a nice, polite person and I always try to make other people happy, so it annoys me a little that I don’t compliment people as much as I should. There have been many times when I’ve thought about saying something nice about what someone’s wearing or how they’re looking, but by the time I’ve gone through my debate – How should I phrase it? Will they think I’m trying to flirt with them? Does saying I think her jacket looks nice make me sound too feminine? Will they think I’m after something? I’ve already said one nice thing, if I say another does that sound too keen? – the moment has passed and I’ve given up.

When I do manage to compliment people, I do worry a bit afterwards as well, especially if it’s online as I can’t see their immediate reaction. If I’ve sent it over Skype, I will often edit the message quickly afterwards for fear of it sounding too flirty or overly complimentary.

As with my poor social skills, this is something that I’m not proud of and I really want to work on to get better at.

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