I couldn’t believe my luck in finding a website that actually detailed ten (TEN!) different ways that a compliment can be a bad thing. Before you think it’s all due to “political correctness,” it’s actually not. It appears that many people simply don’t know how to give a compliment. Or maybe they do, but it’s a sneaky way to give two competing messages.
For example, when someone says, “Oh, nice outfit! Much better than what you usually wear,” it’s a compliment initially. But the second part indicates that the person usually dresses very poorly. Maybe it’s bad taste or lack of good clothing, but either way, the person walks away feeling ….good, but not good?
I have first-hand experience with these kinds of compliments. Honestly, most of the time, they’re just mis-speaks and I tend to find them hysterical. My mother-in-law, rest her soul, once complimented my new hairstyle. This was about 20 years ago, and I had worn my hair short for about a decade. After I let it grow a bit and got a little wave in it, she commented, “Oh, your hair looks so nice! It’s so much more flattering than before.” So for ten years, she didn’t like my hair, but didn’t say anything?
Actually, this would not be typical of her at all and I quickly realized she was simply trying to be nice about my hair.
But one could get a complex after a while with this type of compliment. I continued to let my hair grow that year. Usually letting your hair grow means it looks pretty bad for a while. I was washing dishes one afternoon, with my back to the door and a dear friend came in and said, “Gosh, your hair looks good!” I turned around to thank her and she added, “From the back.”
I guess my growing-out bangs did not look so hot! Again, this made me laugh. In fact, it’s become something we say around our family often. If any of us say, “that chair looks good,” or “that paint job looks good,” another of us typically adds, “from the back.” It doesn’t matter if it makes sense, it just makes us all smile.
Back in my thirties I had gained some weight and really struggled to lose it. I had a bad morning and was tearing up a bit and complaining to my hubby that I felt fat and ugly. He was so supportive, hugging me and comforting me. I was halfway to work on my drive that I realized what he had actually said was, “you’re not a bit ugly.” But…I was fat?
It’s become another funny thing for our family to say. I think the best thing to do when someone gives you a compliment that isn’t really a compliment, is to just turn it into a joke. Laughing always makes everything a bit more bearable.
So when I spent a week painting a room in our house and another friend came over and remarked, “Did you mean to paint it this color?” I just laughed. I inferred that she didn’t like the color and I thought it was funny. I also thought it was a good thing she doesn’t live here!