Take the damn compliment

edification (ˌɛdɪfɪˈkeɪʃən)

— n
1. improvement, instruction, or enlightenment, esp when morally or spiritually uplifting
2. the act of edifying or state of being edified

Edification is the act of making someone else’s day better in a meaningful way without thought of self. Now, if you know me, you know I despise small talk. That’s not to stay I have something against social interaction, I just believe that conversations should be meaningful. They don’t have to be long, just meaningful. If you ask me “How are you?”, I will actually tell you. If you really don’t want to know, don’t ask. I just realized that’s an entirely different rant.

Back to edification.

It doesn’t take much to appreciate someone in a genuine way. A simple yet specific thank you for the way in which someone treated you, or made your day better, or even something more proactive that has no reliance on how you have been treated at all.

“I see how you are with clients and wanted to let you know that I think it’s really a benefit to us.”

“Every morning when I wake up, I smile because you are beside me.”

“I know you don’t know me, but we’ve sat on the same public transit seats every day for years and I just wanted to let you know that you have a beautiful smile.”

Specific comments get thought about. I can prove it.

Here’s a fun little game for those that don’t believe compliments are remembered. The next time you are walking with a friend, compliment their walk. Tell them that you really like the way they walk. Be purposefully vague. Don’t offer any further explanation. I guarantee you they will stumble within five minutes.

Walking is an autonomous function for most of us, requiring no real conscious thought. By drawing our brain to the compliment we just received, we will fixate on how we walk, trying to figure the compliment out, inevitably messing up our stride because we’re thinking about it. It’s a fun game.

Again, I digress.

Sometimes when edifying others, the process is rejected. People are often suspect of genuine praise. Some don’t feel they deserve it. Others believe you must want something. Others still see it as manipulation, that by accepting the compliment they will be indebted to you or owe you something in the karmic grand scheme of things.

That’s not what edification is about.

It takes virtually no effort to make someone else feel better.

I’ve done this with family, friends, even complete strangers. It’s become a part of my very character. I’ve even had dubious people question whether I’m sincere as “nobody can be this good”.

There is nothing wrong with being the good guy. It just takes more effort.

So who owns the responsibility? Is the person giving the praise responsible for how the receiving party takes it, or doesn’t take it? Do they continue to get through to the person until the audience accepts? Does that take away from the principle of edification?

Should the receiver get over themselves and just take the compliment, regardless of their own insecurities and negative patterns, or does that violate the portion about small talk and other meaningless social conventions?

It’s an interesting topic of discussion for me. I believe in edification. Personally, I don’t persist. I put it out there and let the universe take care of it. Whether someone accepts it or not isn’t my responsibility. I know they will think about it at the very least, and perhaps, just perhaps, I will have positively influenced someone’s life in even the most minute way.

I can live with that.

What about you? How are you with people? Are you edifying? Are you quick to compliment for no other reason than simply because? Or have you become so jaded and cynical that you refuse to give or receive compliments, that you only talk in small talk or don’t bother at all because you’re disgusted with meaningless social conventions as well?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

4 responses to “Take the damn compliment

  1. I think your writing continues to improve significantly and I found this topic both engaging and thought provoking. Well written and well considered.

    It is all second nature to me these days, having run a company for the past decade and teams before that. But it wasn’t always that way. I had to work at it early in my career, just as I did public speaking. Edification is an important tool. One of many.

    • Look, just because I’m a gruff, private, take no nonsense hardass doesn’t mean I’m not the good guy.

      Those I like, I treat with respect. The rest die to autocannons.

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