Talking up the good stuff

Hilary Smith

Hilary Smith is a writer with Relationships Aotearoa and an experienced counsellor.

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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  • New Member says
    "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.", go clicker heroes

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