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Are Compliments Paid Because They're Earned?

Oct 9, 2007
A compliment is a verbal gift. In fact, it's the only gift that makes people happy when it's returned.

Verbal gifts come in a variety of forms - someone asking you for your advice, someone introducing you as a friend, someone copying what you did. Imitation is supposedly the sincerest form of flattery, which makes plagiarism flattery - but still wrong.

The expression "pay a compliment" is wrong. You're not meant to say something nice to someone to pay a debt - unless you're sucking up. The expression should be "give a compliment".

As a child I was embarrassed when I was praised. My grandmother told people that "I could take a kind word, but I couldn't take it far". That's changed. Bring on the kind words.

Of course, if it's about my appearance, I'd rather have the words come from a woman than a man. From a woman they come from the heart. From a man they can come from another part of the anatomy.

One of the most appreciated accolades I ever received from a man was from a New York City cab driver. After getting the courage to drive in the city, I cut off a cabbie to make a right turn. If I had a picture of him giving me the finger, it would be framed and on my desk.

Unfortunately, I don't know where to put the shock when another mother says something nice about my sons' behavior. Is she really talking about the boys I'm constantly "asking" to be quiet, to stop teasing each other, to stop roughhousing and to stop fighting? The next time it happens I hope I have pictures of my boys with me so the mother can make a visual ID.

Too often we don't get the admiration we deserve. Too often what we do is taken for granted. That's why we have to learn to pat ourselves on the back. When I broke the heel of my shoe while running to be less late for a meeting and never made it to my son's soccer game, I should have taken time to pat myself on the back for not going home and covering my head with the bed sheets until the next morning. When patting ourselves on the back, however, we have to be careful not to sprain our shoulder. Compliments carry a lot of weight because they lift our spirits.
About the Author
KNIGHT PIERCE HIRST takes humorous looks at life.
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http://knightwatch.typepad.com
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