It’s one thing to think complimentary thoughts about someone; it’s quite another thing to verbalize the compliment to that person.
I hadn’t really considered the difficulty inherent in verbalizing compliments—maybe because I didn’t give many?—until a reading supervisor raised my consciousness.
“I’m dying of cancer,” she told me during our first meeting after I was hired. “Because I haven’t got long to live, I’m going to tell you something.”
And then she proceeded to say some very complimentary things that she wanted me to know about myself, things I hardly heard, fixated as I was on the matter-of-fact announcement she had made of her dying.
Sensing—and seeing, I’m sure, my upsetment at her news, she proceeded to tell me that her “dying time” had been a gift that she wanted to share. It had opened her up to being more honest, especially in giving compliments.
In the few short weeks she had been in my life before she died, her teaching on giving compliments was one I tried to pass along to others, so much had her compliments bolstered my confidence.
Unfortunately—and understandably so, given the society we live in—compliments given to adults, and particularly to strangers, can be met with strong resistance.
False humility, skepticism, suspicion—so many reasons, I suspect, explain why so many folks cannot accept a compliment.
“What do you want from me?” an assistant once sharply demanded in response to a compliment I gave her.
To her, as well as to everyone else who has been reluctant to accept a compliment, I retell the story of my supervisor, explaining that what she gave me, I want to give them: the strength to accept and to give compliments.
May my supervisor rest in peace. As some funeral sentiments say…cancer cannot kill love. She is one supervisor who truly was a mentor; she is one supervisor I truly have admired and loved.
Every time I offer a compliment with her in mind, and the recipient is humble and trusting enough to receive it, we contradict the norm as Shakespeare observed, ensuring, instead, that the good she did was not interred with her bones.
In your retirement, was there a compliment that was easy or difficult to give or to receive?