Jai Rodriguez (from Queer Eye) says that, when someone compliments you, you’re supposed to look them in the eye and say “thank you.” The proper response is apparently not “hide behind your hands and change the subject.” We all know this already, but it’s nice to have someone look directly into the camera and say it flat-out. It’s easier to remember that way. It’s the difference between wiping the pee off the toilet and hoping your guy notices and just saying, “hey, could you not leave pee on the toilet seat?” You’d better just say it; otherwise, he’ll go 40 years thinking that you don’t notice or care and you’ll be secretly wanting to smother him with a pillow when he doesn’t magically read your mind.
I suck at taking compliments because I didn’t get a whole lot of them growing up. That’s not a jab to the parents, that’s just how it is. It either never occurred to them to compliment me to my face or they figured that the world is no place for a person who needs constant reassurance and adoration. The real world can be mean, so you might as well know how to handle mean. That sounds like my dad: hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Nice is easy to handle; mean takes years of training.
Then again, if you don’t know how to take nice, you probably also kind of suck at giving it. Like the parents, I also suck at giving compliments, and can usually only bring myself to talk nicely about somebody if that somebody isn’t around. I’ll criticize you to your face because I’m trying to make you better (in dad’s words, “we nag because we care”), but I’ll compliment you behind your back. I am fully aware of how messed up that is, thank you.
When I can bring myself to compliment someone to his/her face, it sometimes comes out sounding like criticism anyway. Saying “you don’t need to worry about getting laid off…you’ll never be out of work, cause you’re a fucking badass” is ultimately a compliment, but dropping the f-bomb in the middle of it makes it sound unnecessarily aggressive. Not to mention that it sounds like I’m dismissing the person’s concern over being laid off as though they’re being stupid to worry. Oh, English, I love your subtle nuances, even though they frequently bite me on the butt.
This is also one of the things I cite when friends point out that I have all of my limbs, don’t have a lizard growing out of my forehead and want to know why I’m always single. “I suck at giving praise, and guys need a lot of that. They need to hear that you like them best and there’s nobody else you’d rather be with, and that they’re hot and smart and funny and whatever. I tend to just assume that they know all that stuff already since I keep hanging out with them all the time. Like, of COURSE you’re a good kisser. I’m still kissing you, aren’t I?”
Also, I’m picky as hell, neurotic, hard to get in bed, and kind of a bitch. (Being a bitch is kind of like being a cop. Everybody hates cops until they need one.)
Anyway, we were talking about taking/giving compliments. That’s certainly on the top 20 list of Things Amy Is Working On, if not in the top 5. The trick is to have friends around you who walk around being what you’re trying to become and learning from their example. I’m looking at Jen and Nat on this, who are both two of the nicest people ever. (Yes, I had to change that from “nicest fucking people ever.” Baby steps, you guys.)
I have successfully badgered myself into a solid 70% “thank you” ratio. I’m still hiding behind my hands, though. And you probably already know how I am with the eye contact. My entire life is spent doing something wrong, realizing it a day later, and saying, “ok, next time, just say thank you and look them in the eye…got it?” Calling yourself on your stupid behavior and reminding yourself to fix it are the first and second steps, right? It’s just that you only get a millisecond to respond to things verbally, so it takes years to start getting them consistently right. All you can do is keep nagging yourself. We nag because we care.