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Sincere Compliments & Idle Flattery September 28, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Gratitude, Humor, Mindfulness, People, Spirit & Ego.

Wikipedia ~ Balloons (in Public Domain)

Some time ago, Rik Scott posted a thought-provoking piece:

The Art-the Gift-of Acceptance.

I agree with him . . . to a point.

I am happy to accept sincere compliments with an equally sincere “Thank you.”

However, if I suspect a compliment is NOT heart-felt, and is instead an insincere platitude ~ the politically correct utterance of what “they” think I want to hear, rather than what they sincerely think ~ I’m not inclined to thank them for the subtle deception.

Instead, I tend to shrug and say, “I have my moments.”

Sincere appreciation from others for our efforts deserves our equally sincere appreciation in response.

Idle flattery, on the other hand, is best left sitting idle on the runway, rather than being internalized by our greedy egos.

The issue then becomes . . . how does one tell the difference between a sincere compliment and idle flattery?

Good Question.

Quote: Just trust yourself and you will know how to live. ~ Goethe

Aah . . . that’s better!

Those alluring lures . . . do you ever take the bait?  What tips you off to the ulterior motives behind idle flattery?

What’s that?  What do I MEAN when I tell you that your post is AWESOME? 

Tigger-Looking-At-His-TailWell, it depends . . . either I liked the writing, or the subject matter, or the thought provoking nature of the post, or the poetic cadence, or the pictures and graphics, or the memories and images it evoked, or I agreed with the opinions you expressed, or I felt you needed a dose of  encouragement, or I saw real improvement, or  . . . G . . . your guess is as good as mine.

Related posts:  Let Go, EGO! * WTF: Watch That Feedback * Pop Goes The Ego * Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies * The 2011 Sexiest Blog Award * I Am Truly Humbled * Taking the Bait . . . Hook, Line, and Sinker * The Lift Doesn’t Last * How (or not) to Accept a Compliment (Chittle Chattle)


1. Richard W Scott - September 28, 2011

Thank you for the mention and the link, Nancy.

nrhatch - September 28, 2011

You’re welcome. 😀

2. Maggie - September 28, 2011

If I suspect someone’s not giving me a sincere compliment, I react with sarcasm. It might not be the “right” way to react, but it usually makes the person laugh and reconsider what they just said.

nrhatch - September 28, 2011

I’m with you, Maggie! In face to face encounters, if someone is tossing insincere compliments in my direction (hoping, perhaps, I’ll act like a trained seal grabbing for dead fish from the trainer’s bucket), I definitely demur. 😆

3. sufilight - September 28, 2011

Some folks are not comfortable even with sincere compliments. I am reminded of a local cashier at the local gift shop who had a haircut that was really flattering to her face, and I commented with a smile “I like your hair”, and she replied with a dismissive tone and a serious face “I like it too”. LOL. And yes, compliments without trying to get something as with spammers or pick up lines as when I was alone are appreciated.

nrhatch - September 28, 2011

That’s the point of Rik’s original article ~ definitely worth a read.

We should not be so humble and modest that we cannot accept a sincere compliment when it comes our way.

With that, I agree.

The problem is that SO MANY of the compliments circulating in cyber space (and around water coolers) are NOT sincere ~ often times it’s a ploy used to gain reciprocity . . . I’ll scratch your [blog] if you scratch mine.

That type of meaningless exchange gets OLD. Fast.

Plus, the more we internalize unwarranted compliments, the more susceptible we become to unwarranted criticism ~ we become too focused on what OTHERS think of our efforts and lose our inner focus.

It’s far easier (and safer) to use an internal compass or yardstick. If I know I have done my BEST on the task at hand, I give myself a silent round of applause or a pat on the back.

Even if NO ONE ELSE notices that I gave it my all, I notice. That’s enough.

The goal is not to be better than others . . . we need only strive to be better than our previous self.

Karen J - September 2, 2012

Good points, all, Nancy!

Sometimes it’s really difficult for me to ‘pin down’ what exactly I like about a particular thing: post, haircut, outfit, whatever. The easy “Like” may be a sign of “not enough time to think deeply about it”, or it may be, as you said, truly insincere, verging on spammery.

Intriguing point this: “…the more we internalize unwarranted compliments, the more susceptible we become to unwarranted criticism…” That warrants more ‘chewing on’!

nrhatch - September 3, 2012

Thanks, Karen. When we look to others to “pick us up” with a “pat on the back” . . . they also have the power to “let us down” by failing to notice our “best efforts.”

We really are the best judge of whether we are doing our best.

4. nuvofelt - September 28, 2011

LOL, this has just reminded me of something. That seems to be happening a lot recently. I’ll blog about it next week, I’m teaching away from tomorrow so all my posts are scheduled. I’ll link back here when it’s done.

I think it’s easier to discern a real compliment as one ‘matures’. Accepting a compliment with grace also becomes easier, but the compliments are sometimes harder to come by 😉

nuvofelt - September 28, 2011
nrhatch - September 28, 2011

Go you! I’ll be around straight away. 😀

nrhatch - September 28, 2011

What a rollicking read! You had me laughing out loud.

Thanks so much! 😀

5. souldipper - September 28, 2011

Flattery is all about “getting”. I agree, Nancy, we can sense sincerity. I once asked a man who used charm consistently in conversations to not use it on me. He protested and said charm was an art. “So is lying then”, I said.

Anyway, he did not agree that charm was manipulation. Nor did he agree that it gives no indication of who he is – other than a facade.

In the beginning, bloggers need to put themselves out there to be discovered. I found your blog because of the title. I came, liked what I saw and discovered that many of your commentors offered good blogs as well. Authentic responses attract me. Sincerity will shine through on the commentor’s blog. If the theme attracts as well, it’s a delight.

Some of my favourite blogs offer themes that I would not attempt. I have no idea how authentic they are, but they are a fun and refreshing read.

nrhatch - September 28, 2011

Manipulation is right . . . when we are subtly dishonest with others to gain something for ourselves (e.g., their approval, reciprocity, or a return favor), we are manipulating them.

Like you, I do NOT like to feel like I’m being manipulated.

If we are mindful BEFORE gobbling up proferred compliments, we can often discern the sincere from the platitude.

6. How to accept a compliment | Chittle Chattle - September 28, 2011

[…] blogging business is easy when prompts are handed to you on a plate!  Last week I read this post by nrhatch, and I was instantly reminded of the following […]

7. kateshrewsday - September 28, 2011

Sincerity, for some, is an art form to be learned. We learn to be polite from so young. Some of this comes from feedback we got before we could speak. To be true to oneself 100 per cent of the time- that’s an aim for me, but I haven’t achieved it yet.

nrhatch - September 28, 2011

Well . . . to be honest . . . I’m not quite there yet either ~ but I’m moving in that general direction. 😉

It is hard to be honest when we are socialized that being polite requires us to “hide our cards” at times.

Booksphotographsandartwork - September 28, 2011

So very true. It is a very difficult thing to teach this concept to kids. It can really come back to bite you.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

Exactly. They are honest as they ask, “Why is she so fat?” and we hush them up and teach them not to comment on people’s appearance . . . except to say “nice” things.

They grow up and get asked, “Does this dress make me look fat?” and they CANNOT answer honestly. 😉

kateshrewsday - September 29, 2011

Phew! What a relief! 😀

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

After watching The Invention of Lying, I reconsidered my stance that “shading the truth” benefits no one.

Some of the characters definitely offer up “too much information” at times. 😀

8. the island traveler - September 28, 2011

You can sense sincerity by how a person pours out his thoughts/ feelings in a comment. You could tell which took the time and the who simply said, ” lets get this over with. Put great and move to the next post.” I can always tell which one simply did it for numbers sake and which one promises a potential flourishing friendship. When I see real friends, I try as much to keep them. They make your day just meaningful in a Blogger world kind of way. Thank you for this post. It makes the reader really think…I did. Have a blessed day!

nrhatch - September 28, 2011

Excellent point! When someone looks at art, photography, or poetry and LOVES IT . . . they tend to comment with specificity about the colors, the textures, or the subject matter as a whole.

If they look at a piece of art and merely utter, “I love it,” without offering anything in the way of elaboration, it does call into question the depth of their true feelings. 😀

They may be sincere . . . or they may be crossing that comment off their “To Do” list as quickly as possible.

Team Oyeniyi - October 1, 2011

I’m one of those poeple who do sometimes “love” (or at least like a lot) works of art without knowing exactly why. Sometimes it just speaks to me.

nrhatch - October 1, 2011

If I ask myself “why?” . . . certain themes tend to surface (vibrant colors, bold strokes, whimsical nature, etc.). But I’d have a tough time as an art critic:

M: I don’t like it.
T: Why not?
M: It’s ugly.
T: It’s art.
M: It’s rubbish.

nrhatch - September 28, 2011

And . . . thanks! Knowing that a post inspired a reader to pause and reflect is exactly what I’m after. 😀

9. Flamingo Dancer - September 28, 2011

I get annoyed when I give a compliment and the recipient, instead of even saying a polite thank you, makes a negative comment about themselves. I think it diminishes the person giving the compliment. I have worked hard at learning to accept compliments with gratitude, as it honours the giver and the receiver.

nrhatch - September 28, 2011

That’s the point of Rik’s original article ~ definitely worth a read.

We should not be so humble and modest that we cannot accept a sincere compliment when it comes our way.

With that, I agree.

10. Tahlia Newland - September 28, 2011

Trust your instincts for sure, but watch for your subtle assumptions. If you think someone doesn’t like you, you’re going to interpret their compliment differently than if you think they do. Like a lot of things, it’s a matter of perception.

nrhatch - September 28, 2011

Excellent point, Tahlia. The status of each relationship does overlay our perceptions.

11. Booksphotographsandartwork - September 28, 2011

I used to have a friend who always meant something mean when she complimented people. No wait I just remembered another one! They were a piece of work! Like nails on a chalkboard. If I never see either one again it will be too soon!

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

I know just what you mean . . . and that’s another type of “compliment” that I choose to leave sitting on the runway.

I refuse to thank people for insulting me with innuendo. 😉

12. JannatWrites - September 29, 2011

It’s easier to discern intent of a ‘compliment’ in person, of course, but on the internet, I give polite acceptance, even though I may suspect that it’s just fluff. No need to make a big deal of something that means nothing.

The ‘compliments’ that drive me nuts are the ones where I can’t tell what the intent is. Like when someone says, “nice shirt” – do they mean “you rock that shirt!” or “that shirt should be burned!”? I feel silly for accepting a compliment that isn’t, but would feel bad for serving up sarcasm if they really did like the shirt. In this case, I usually smile, say “thanks”, and follow it up with, “nice shoes.” This way, I can leave them wondering.

By the way, nice post.
No, really, I like how you expose false flattery as empty calories for the ego.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

You had me at “nice post.” 😆

I agree about not making a big deal out of every faux compliment we receive. It’s not really our response to “them” that matters ~ we don’t have to be the flattery police blowing whistles in their faces.

It’s what WE choose to do with the compliments (and the criticisms) we receive that is important. Everyone else’s opinion of us is based on a lmited information. No one else completely understands our motivations for acting, etc. So it pays to take their OPINIONS with a grain of salt ~ pro or con, honest or subtle deception.

Nice comment, by the way. 😉

13. Tilly Bud - September 29, 2011

Sometimes, though, people are sincere, but inept. My policy is to accept all compliments at face value and with a pinch of salt.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

That sounds like the perfect balance, Tilly.

That way we don’t get too caught up in the applause and accolades (or the condemnation and criticism).

Karen J - September 2, 2012

Agreed, Tilly!
It’s soooo easy to forget that even the ‘most eloquent IRL (in real life)’ person may not be fluid or fluent at typing, which is really what all internet communication requires.

14. andalibmarks - September 29, 2011

So, when I tell you I think your posts are awesome – you know I mean it, right?


nrhatch - September 29, 2011

Of course! 😉

15. William D'Andrea - September 29, 2011

What about “White lies”? Things you tell people so as not to hurt them unnecessarily. The classic example is what do you say when a woman asks “How do I look?”

One thing I learned many years ago, was to never say anything critical about how a woman dresses. Doing so can lead to very much unpleasantness.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

If I really like someone . . . I tell them the truth without hiding behind “white lies” to avoid unpleasantness.

My friends know NOT to ask me questions about how they look unless they really want to know HOW they look 😀

16. Debra - September 29, 2011

good post….really! hehehe

I try not to ‘attach to’ or become ‘averse to’ compliments or comments. At least as much as i can. 🙂

People say many words. Some are bound to be flattery. But flattery only works on me if I let it 🙂

Reality is not outside. Flattery is outside.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

That’s a good way to put it, Debra. I don’t get “attached” to the opinions expressed by others ~ positive or negative. I know when I’ve done my best. I know if I’m changing and growing in the “right direction.”

And . . . I know when I’m slacking off. 😉

17. Christine Grote - September 29, 2011

I hear you. Sometimes I think people just want to let you know they were here or are still reading. Pushing the “like”button is often considered not good enough. If I take the time to read someone’s blog, I’d like them to know I was there, but frequently I don’t have a meaningful comment to make.

It’s a dilemma.

However, I’m not one to give out insincere praise.

nrhatch - September 30, 2011

I agree. Sometimes people read a post or view a piece of art and don’t know what to say because the words and images have not resonated with them . . . causing synapses to fire in rapid succession with images and thoughts they desire to share.

But they want to say some thing. So they toss out a “Great post!” or “That’s funny!” or “I love it!” or “Brilliant”

Our job is to filter through those token remarks without getting too puffed up in the process ~ a grain of salt to temper the sweetness.

18. Christine Grote - September 29, 2011

I thought I’d let you know, I was able to do this on my iPad.

nrhatch - September 30, 2011

Excellent! I did tinker a bit back stage with the settings to see if I could improve the compatibility between SLTW and the iPad experience.

Don’t ask me what I did . . . I’ve no idea . . . I don’t know if I provided the missing link or if the problem resolved on its own.

19. eof737 - September 30, 2011

😆 Awesome post Nancy! Off the charts! You have it going on! Genius! Seriously, I see those comments from spammers and wonder when my blog friends would say same… 😆
I can’t tell from a written comment but can from words spoken… so I accept all comments and take it in stride… I was about to say great post but you get the drift… 😉

nrhatch - September 30, 2011

Bwahaha! Brilliant comment, E! :mrgreen:

I accept all comments but only internalize those that “resonate” with me. I let all others drift away into the ether no matter how loudly Ego screams that it wants to hang on to IT!

Team Oyeniyi - October 1, 2011

I never quite understood what “awesome” means actually! 😆 But I’ve gathered over time it means really good – I think!

I love the spam comments that tell me I REALLY provided interesting information on articles I clearly didn’t provide interesting information at all!

nrhatch - October 1, 2011

Those Spammers make my day . . .

Each morning my box is filled with inane comments about how I could add “value” by adding photos (in a post with 6 photos), or links (in a post with 13 links), or . . . .

They make me laugh. 😆

Team Oyeniyi - October 1, 2011

I just had one that made me laugh – a lovely invitation to wander through the spammer’s site, after complimenting me on mine – but the site in question is entirely in Chinese, according to the new, very helpful preview provided by WP. I wouldn’t understand a word of it. However, the comment was beautiful English!

nrhatch - October 1, 2011

Sometimes the English words are there . . . but they’re not quite in the proper order. It’s like they threw them into a tumbler and pulled them out willy-nilly to construct the sentence.

I’m just glad that the WP spam filter is on the ball 24/7. :mrgreen:

20. Team Oyeniyi - October 1, 2011

I think this may be more of a problem in the USA than in Australia. As a nation, we dish out compliments pretty rarely, really, in comparison to other cultures.

Consequently, sorting the wheat from the chaff is pretty simple for us.

nrhatch - October 1, 2011

I tend to comment more on the substance of people’s posts, sharing anecdotes or other tidbits that surface as I’m reading . . . without discussing the artistic merit of what they wrote unless I really do love their “way with words.”

21. Kathy - August 23, 2013

I know this is an old post, but thought I’d contribute a little to the convo.

My Dad used to say “The sincerest compliment is one that’s heard second hand.” I try to take that to heart in terms of other folks…while I try to be sure I to affirm in person what is worth of affirmation, I also try to make sure I share my sincere praise with others!

A friend heard a great quote on the radio today (my search for the origins of that quote and Dad’s led me to this blog):

“Gossip is saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his face. Flattery is saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his back”

nrhatch - August 23, 2013

Oh, I’m so glad you chimed in . . . your dad is a wise man. And that is a terrific quote. Second-hand compliments are apt to be heart-felt.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

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