Tuesday, July 17, 2012

To Compliment or not...it’s Complicated...

Have you seen the movie Liar, liar starring Jim Carrey? It has some great comedy scenes and it also has a quirky premise- what if someone can’t lie for a day? Poor Jim gets caught with his honesty in a myriad little ways. But what caught my attention more than the fact that he uses that lying tongue to get ahead in life is when he uses that same talent for lying to compliment people. When he finally starts saying the truth- about what he thinks of them- that’s when he suffers more damage than in anything he says work wise. Because people cant accept the truth from someone who has been so supportive and complimentary of them. They crave those compliments from him and are violently disappointed when he doesn’t oblige but keeps speaking the truth. They just don’t want the truth. They want their daily fix of compliments. This scene got me a-thinking about this whole compliment business.

Our society had turned so self centered that nowadays we don’t compliment others much, do we? On an average day, how many people do you compliment? Do you compliment at least one or two every day? I do, at least a few...and every time I do so...I try to find something that’s real or true to compliment. But often there is not much we can make out deserving a genuine compliment- however much we try to sift out the milk from the water (to borrow from the great poet Tiruvalluvar)- and we forced to resort to clichés and half-truths. But even the half-truths serve their purpose according to me. 

Consider this person who had been exercising hard all week but has not seen a grams weight loss and is on the verge of giving up and you go up to him and say “hey..you look a little thinner, have you been exercising? Good job dude..keep at it” and walk away….do you think that it matters whether he knows it and you know it, that it is a white lie? Or someone who despite his financial status always wear clean crisp well ironed dresses to work and you ask them “that shirt looks brand new. Is it?” and then as you walk away, you see them beam with pride behind you… is that kind of lie justified. Because I have done both the examples above and I do them on a daily basis. 

I look for things to compliment people on and even if I can’t find anything on a quick superficial appraisal I invent things with a ring of authenticity. The people I compliment don’t judge me by that lie. They simply acknowledge my eagerness to spread a little joy and ease a little burden during the course of their long work day. They wait expectantly when I pass by and if I remember to compliment them on something that day, I can see their backs lift up straight and their work speeding up. If a little compliment can grease the wheels so much, why don’t we do it more often, to more people? I ask myself this, everyday, when I hurry past those same people wrapped up in my own world and in my own problems. I mentally kick myself for not spending a few seconds appreciating or complimenting them as I went past and I make a mental promise to do it as soon as I can.

But this sort of thing works only for people we know. Have you ever walked up to a perfect stranger and complimented them on something you noticed about them, without the fear of adverse complications? Let’s say I walk into the Gym and I see a stranger guy wearing a quirky T-shirt....So when we sort of meet up at the water-cooler, I casually say "that’s a pretty cool T-shirt dude, where did you get it?"...Chances are, he will not only give me more details than I asked for...He will probably take me to the Juice shop downstairs and buy me a drink for complimenting him. We will become Gym friends, Facebook Friends, Exchange Mobile numbers and probably start hanging out with each other’s friends also....Now think about what will happen if I walk up to a strange girl and say the same thing? Bets are she will look at me as if I’m the local equivalent of "Jack the Ripper" and run off screaming to security....Now if you ladies think it’s an exaggeration, ask yourself when was the last time, you graciously accepted a compliment from a stranger??

The only woman I can remember who knew the right way to accept a compliment is my old college mate Lisa. I remember her once abusing me (and a couple of other guys) in choice words “I got up at 6’0clock, spent an hour on dressing up and on make-up- all for you guys to look at and admire, and you guys don’t even have the good sense to compliment me on how good I look? Waste college and waste batch mates” and with those immortal words Lisa reminded us all how much people look forward to their hard work being appreciated.

So tell me, are you going to start appreciating more people from today and start complimenting them? And on a lighter note, when will women accept a compliment as just that, an admiration and not a subtle attempt at furthering things? 

(P.s. the person in the picture is my buddy Sylvian Patrick {http://www.sylvianism.com} with one of those awesome T-shirts he is famous for wearing)


  1. Well, I do complement people on a daily basis. It brings joy into our life as well as into the once who is being complimented. After all, life is all about making people happy, right? :)

    BTW, all ladies are not the same. Many do accept compliments graciously :)

    I love this post, Doctor. Do write many posts on the same lines :)

    1. thanks sowmya...but hey....i dont decide the topic of my posts..they tell me, when its time to come out of me....ROTFL

  2. I do compliment people- both those i know and strangers... And well, have received quite a few, even from strange men, sometimes i smile awkwardly [i actually do that most times cos i dont know how to accept a compliment gracefully] and with friends i start kidding around, cracking up till one them says "women, just say thanks, i paid you a compliment".. :D

    Good post... and Sylvian does seem to have quite a collection of fun Tshirts.. think he was wearing one such on sat at RTFF

    intha sunday photowalk poneengala Doctor saar? :) was telling Ram, he shd just pick me up from RTFF venue and haul me away...

    1. no aarti..i missed this walk- i was in tirupati that weekend...and yes it sometimes causes us to crack up doesn't it? getting complimented suddenly?

  3. Ganesh! hiii...hi hi... you are tagged in this post of mine...

    Do stop by my blog and take a look! It will be great if you can write a post on it!


  4. Sometimes all it takes is a smile to brighten someone's day. People are not generous with that too these days.

    Talking about girls, not all men give compliments just for "complimenting" do they ? ;) I guess thats the reason girls cant make out even when its genuine.

    Ok, Here is the first compliment I am giving out today and its true...Very Good post.Enjoyed the read :)

    1. Not all men..i agree jaishree, but dont women have a sixth sense (inbuilt) to weed out the wheat from the chaff? atleast thats what i believed till now...and hey, thats not just a compliment...