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Sue + Talk 2 • Compliments

31.5.16 Suesue


I am a compliment-awkward. What does that mean? It means that I don't really know what to do when someone gives me a compliment and I will become very awkward. What is the definition of compliment exactly? It is "a remark that expresses approval, admiration or respect" (Cambridge Dictionary). It comes from when I was growing up: I have never really received compliments from my parents before. My Chinese parents would never say positive things to me because of several reasons I think. Firstly, because they think I can always do better as compliments give confirmation that you have done well, but instead they want me to aim for "better". Secondly, they simply don't know how to express their true feelings and it is weird and awkward for them to give compliments.

There are two times that my dad has given compliments to me. First, when I graduated my Bachelor's degree. My dad was so joyful and super happy that he almost shed a tear about the fact I graduated. Secondly, was when I reserved good places in at a boat in Hong Kong for our family (lol).

I have few examples that I'm compliment-awkward.

  • I worked for the first time in a retail store as sales representative a year ago. My manager complimented me regularly: "Sue Sue, you are always so fast learning. You absorb information and put it into practise really fast." "Ehm.. thank you?" "You don't really know how to cope with compliments do you, haha?" "Haha.." And I simply laugh it off. 
  • Multiple times when my boyfriend compliments me when we are playing League of Legends (computer game). "Oh babe, that was an awesome stun. You just killed him. Well done!" "No" I said, "He's just noob". Again, I'm trying to put the blame on him, instead of recognising my own ability of doing something good. 
  • Another example is my study in the UK. I was saying to my friends that the study here is easier than I have expected. How could I get those high marks otherwise? My friend said: "But, rather than saying that the study is easy, isn't it just you who became smarter and wiser?". 

My ex-manager, my boyfriend and my friends may say the truth. It is just the humble me, that shuts down their compliments rather than receiving and thanking for them. It's not that I have low self-worth, but It feels like I'm not eligible to receive the compliment. I feel awkward. What do you do? My instinct immediately goes to: nah, it's not me, it's something else. It is not natural for me to receive compliments and just thank for it. Is this something recognisable for you as well?
However, recently I'm more conscious about compliments and I will do my best to thank and receive them, but sometimes I still do have moments when I shut them down. I want to be less compliment-awkward and just appreciate the compliments that I receive - maybe we are very good at a particular thing and we need to be proud of it.

So we have talked about receiving compliments, but what about giving compliments?

I grew up and a relatively small town and in my opinion, giving compliments is uncommon thing to do. People are often quickly quite suspicious, they react super surprised or they are just insincere, like I did in the previous paragraphs. But we never have, well I have never really thought about giving compliments in a more profound way. Of course I'd do it once in a while to my friend's newest pair of shoes or jacket for example, but very casual. I have never really stood still by the thought of compliments, until I have encountered a moment, which has also provoked me to write about compliments in the first place.

Not too long ago, I was in a lovely coffee shop in Galway, Ireland to have my lunch and coffee before I traveled back to London. Next to me there was a couple, which the girl with dyed green hair has complimented the waitress with dyed blue hair. Just spontaneous, suddenly, super nicely. "I like your hair." "Thank you!" I thought hmm, that was very casual, but definitely something nice and positive. Then, the owner of the coffee is such a lovely man and I can't help but feel super happy when he's so nice and friendly to this customers. I can't praise him enough, for him to greet every customer so warm-heartily. Always smiling, always chatting, working hard, making sure everyone is comfortable in the coffee shop. I was wondering myself: Is he happy all the time? How can he be super friendly to everyone? I paid my food and I complimented him by saying that he's such a nice man and social. Then he said to me that I'm so kind. It think it is clear that we have made each other's day, or at least made that little moment into a little happiness moment.

The moral of this Galway story is: Why can't be all be like that man? Even it's only 10% or 5%? Of course, I'm not implying we should be like that man super friendly to everyone, but I think compliments are a good start. By giving sincere compliments you are making someone else happy, make their day or that little moment special. Likewise, if you see how your compliment is positively taken by that person, you would feel good about it too. The first step is hard, but it'll get easier!

Recently, I was with my sister waiting to cross the road when I saw a white and blue old timer passing by with a very cute old couple in it. First, I was attracted to that super cute car and later on, I saw how cute the man actually was.  He was having the time of his life in the car, with his wife and was wearing a summer hat too. By looking at them passing by so summery and delightful, it made me so happy that I started to wave at them. Luckily they waved back joyfully and it has definitely made my day and their day much more cheerful. These little things make me think how beautiful life and world can be, honestly.

I don't want to be compliment-awkward, rather I would like to give some sprinkle of happiness to others too. Whether they are compliments or any other gesture of kindness. If each compliment is one sprinkle of happiness and we all were giving compliments, then the world would be overflowed with so much sprinkles of happiness leading to a much better and happier place!


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