Compliments are controversial around these parts. I’m a fan of both giving and receiving them, and feel that doing so is beneficial. But I’ve heard you folks say time and again that compliments can be tricky, confusing, even painful depending on how they’re presented and how the person receiving them interprets them.
Since I am fascinated by all things style and body image, the compliments I tend to encourage have to do with those two topics. And what I’ve learned is that when some people are told, “You look great today,” what they hear is, “You look better today than you usually look.” That when some people are told, “You’ve got gorgeous hair,” they feel uncomfortable accepting praise for something that is genetic, inherited, and mainly beyond their control. That when some people are told, “You look fabulous in that dress,” they feel the underlying implication is, “You have conformed to social beauty norms. Good job.”
Originally posted 2012-09-11 06:20:25.
Many years ago at a previous job, I was put through several rounds of “sensitivity training” with my colleagues due to internal personality conflicts and petty strife. It was a very frustrating and mostly useless process, but I did take away one valuable thing: The phrase “assume positive intent.” Since this phrase and the idea behind it have become central to my life philosophy, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I learned them during these otherwise fruitless sessions. But hey, get your wisdom wherever you can, right?
Originally posted 2011-08-15 06:17:36.
Many years ago, a friend mentioned in passing that she never wore shorts because of her fat knees. I had never given the girth of my own knees a single solitary thought, but I immediately began scrutinizing them. And yes, they were saggy and weird and kinda fat-looking. Now, I had something new to worry about.
Over the course of this blog, I’ve received several comments and e-mails instructing me to “get a tan.” Rather forcefully and with the implication that my pasty whiteness was an absolute affront. It had never occurred to me that my pale skin was marking me as an unstylish person. Now, I had something new to worry about.*
Originally posted 2011-08-04 06:08:24.