Talking up the good stuff

Hilary Smith

Hilary Smith is a writer with Relationships Aotearoa and an experienced counsellor. www.relationshipsaotearoa.org.nz

When someone compliments you, is your first thought, "What do they want?"

Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens - Stephen and Tahn (May 2009)

If you feel surprise and maybe a touch of suspicion when the people close to you let you know they like you or they admire what you do, it could be time to take stock of your assumptions.

Okay, sometimes people have nothing good to say to each other, because that's exactly how they feel. But most often people have simply acquired the habit of not saying anything about the things they like.

Maybe you grew up with the notion that praise is unnecessary, or gushy and probably insincere. You might feel awkward about giving or receiving compliments. Whatever your reasons, if you don't say much about the good things in your relationships you need to be conscious of the possible consequences.

It's a short step from leaving the good things unsaid, to feeling that the good things are unimportant. From there taking each other for granted and resenting it is easy.

When it seems to you that the obvious reason for your partner to say something nice to you is to butter you up you're starting to feed a sad relationship story about manipulating each other and not valuing each other.

If what you want is more along the lines of a warm, supportive relationship story, a useful step is to start talking up the good stuff. The aim is to let your partner know that you like them, not to keep it a secret.

Saying things is a really simple way of giving them some weight. It's not about inventing pretty compliments. It's about noticing what you enjoy in your partner, and, commenting on it. Let them know what you like about them.

You don't have to be poetic. The qualities or actions you notice don't have to work for a big screen drama. You don't have to say it with candlelight, or roses or expensive gifts.

Keep it simple. Keep it true and keep it coming. If it's going to help build up your relationship, then your partner has to be able to believe you mean what you say. If you're genuine and persistent sooner or later they'll get the idea that you like them, and that your liking is based on knowing them pretty well.

Most people like being liked. Generally, you feel warm and comfortable and relaxed with people who let you know they like you. It often becomes quite easy to tell someone who likes you what it is you like about them. So you'll probably find that if you start deliberately talking up the good stuff, in the long run your partner will respond in kind, and you'll both feel good.

Talking up the good stuff will help keep you aware of what you enjoy in each other. That does give you a great early warning system, but most importantly, focusing on the good stuff makes it so much more enjoyable right now.

 
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  • akg3 says
    Good article :)

    It should be quite obvious that we like hanging around with the people who make us feel good about ourselves. And of course, if people give us sincere compliments then that will make us feel good. Therefore, logic would say that if we want people to enjoy being with us we should compliment them readily and give positive feedback. It all sounds so simple, if only we'd all put it into practice!
  • KH says
    Good points here. Both paying compliments to people and accepting them can be more tricky than you first imagine. Doesn't come naturally to us all.
  • Anna says
    i find giving compliments easy... but taking them a bit harder... more just in a sense of i dont know how to answer...
  • KH says
    I sure try to point out the positive things to other people but you're right it can be really hard taking a compliment. I tend to brush it off even when it's something small.
  • Anna says
    yer totally... but i guess its better than always finding the negative... i have a friend who always just talks bad mouth about her friends... make me wonder what she says bout me behind my back...
  • KH says
    Yeah, you can be sure that someone who speaks badly of everyone else does the same thing about you but the good thing is that if you hear they have done that, that it's not personal! It's just part of this other persons personality.
  • Wice says
    From a very early age, I was taught to simply say "Thank you" when someone compliments me. It's easy.

    I believe compliments can be quite magical - especially coming from strangers. I still remember a lady in a butcher’s shop complimenting me on my complexion some twenty-five years ago! Maybe it was the moment, but I felt really good.

    A couple of weeks ago, a woman came up to me in the supermarket and told me how lovely the colour of my blouse looked on me. I was so chuffed. I went home and told hubbie - who just grunted!

    However, it was because of the butcher's incident, that if I see something about someone that deserves a compliment, I will always tell them - whether they are strangers or not. What a simple way to add a bit of pleasure to someone’s life and make them feel better about themselves!
    • KH says
      I really have to practice just saying "thank you"! Specially when some lovely person has gone to the trouble of saying something nice. I really think it's only recently that I've felt able to compliment people I don't know and I'll sometimes tell someone I think they're wearing a gorgeous dress or the colour they've chosen looks great on them.
    • flowery3 says
      Like several folks here, I find it easier to compliment others than accept compliments myself, although they make me feel really great, I don't know what to say and get tongue-tied. AFter they have gone and the moment is over, I work out what I should have said! I like Wice's simple "Thank you" as I can always remember to say that. And if I manage to think of anything else, I can add it on afterwards!
    • flowery3 says
      I have certainly noticed the positive effect when I take time to compliment others. And it seems to be catching, the more I do so, the more I notice others around me do so. Lets start an epidemic!
      • KH says
        We really should! Need a few more positive things happening in the world. Every little bit counts. Plus you might never know how much the person you complimented needed it that particular day!

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