You run into people sometimes who are SO GOOD at dealing with compliments. They are compliments professionals. They are the best kind of people generally speaking. The thing about them is that they are involved in a cycle of compliment humility that works like this:
- Person is humble to begin with.
- Everyone loves humble people and either appreciates them a lot and/or wants to build them up, so humble person gets compliments by the truckload
- Person is naturally humble already, so compliments glide off him like softened butter on toast. But, they stay there! Like butter STAYS on the toast, so compliments are absorbed by the complimentee. Yet they ALSO glide away and discreetly become one with the toast, not like garish jam, or cold butter that falls off of the toast.
- Humbleness retained, the cycle begins all over again.
I have striven to be this sort of person. I’ve observed the behavior of those who are already like this, and those who are the opposite of this. I’ve read numerous books on social graces (“How to Win Friends and Influence People” people!) These years of study have not been unfruitful. Indeed, even though I’m super horrible at keeping them, the following three rules about compliments have embedded themselves in my mind. I can tell you now that whenever all three rules are kept, compliment fun-times are WAY maximized:
- Always say thank you when you’re given a genuine compliment. NEVER deflect it.
- Try to somehow turn the compliment around so it compliments the other person. I read this in a book. It is super hard to do because you are so focused on how awesome you are and the warm fuzzy feeling a genuine compliment gives you, that it’s difficult to think about someone else’s positive attributes. Unless you are one of those rare naturally humble people who do that all the time. However, I did read that the easiest way to do this is to compliment the complimenter for being so nice and for taking the time to compliment you. You can always be thankful for that!
- This is really vague, but whatever you do, make sure to not turn one compliment into a quest for more compliments, or any sort of showcase of yourself. This sounds like it’s easy to avoid, but if you’re the average self-centered person it’s really not.
The wrong kind of people are the jam and cold butter on toast kind of people. Jam and Cold Butter people break ALL OF THE RULES. Jam is more easily forgiven however, because (besides being literally quite tasty on toast), Jam people are often just not aware that what they are doing is annoying.
Anyway Jam people don’t absorb a compliment. They let the compliment sit in a bright look-at-me lump on the surface of the toast by feigning humility through deflection of the compliment (“Oh stop it, I’m really not THAT special. YOU’RE more special than I am). But the thing is, they really do think that they’re special. It’s an easy trap to fall into, I’ve done it many times before. It’s really a misguided attempt at keeping Rule #2. It twists itself around though, because instead of keeping Rule #2, it breaks Rule #3. It’s kind of like asking for MORE affirmation. These people really want to look humble and also cool, but the problem is that they’ve never been taught that accepting compliments is cooler than rejecting them. And don’t think for a second that Jam people are just high-school freshman girls. Jam people, from jellies to preserves, can be found in all walks of life. Some Jam people are just extra-clever and better at hiding their jam status. You could call them Peanut Butters, or Nutellas.
Cold Butter compliment takers. Oh these people are not fun at all. Have you ever tried spreading cold butter on toast? It doesn’t work. Cold Butter FALLS OFF OF THE TOAST. And then it stays on the plate/countertop in garish white lumps, causing more of an eyesore and nuisance than it would have if it had simply absorbed itself into the toast. These Cold Butters absorb a compliment even less than Jams do. They don’t believe the compliments. They don’t believe anything you tell them because they think that they’re ugly or unintelligent or not that special. I used to feel really sorry for these people, but now I’m mostly really annoyed by them.
This is a choice, kids! Don’t be a cold butter! Don’t be a jam! Be a yummy slice of butter-saturated sourdough, like the kind they have at Denny’s or Elmer’s. That’s totally everyone’s favorite kind of toast! Be that toast!