I’m convinced there are certain people in the world who truly can not (or will not) simply compliment another person- they feel they are doing the person a favor by also incorporating some sort of condescending criticism which picks at a minor detail to negate the positive vibes of the compliment itself. Sort of like the way certain people can not (or will not) truly apologize, by saying something lame like this: “Well if I did something to hurt your feelings I’m sorry…” That kind of apology translates as “I’m sorry you’re such a baby and sorry that you’re trying to make me look like the bad guy.”
Just last week when I published What Not to Say If You Want People to Like You 101, one of the points I touched on was “Knowing How to Actually Compliment Someone”. Then ironically yesterday a random stranger acted out exactly what I had just mocked a few days before. Click here (healthnutshell: Ketchup Vs. Mustard) to read a post I wrote which contrasts the types of food that ketchup and mustard are generally paired with.
In case you didn’t click on the link and haven’t read the comment I’m referring to, here it is again: “Bahaha… you make a good point, but I doubt that by avoiding ketchup, you have succeeded in eating healthily. XD This is good stuff to know, but I also feel that it is a little fanatical. Thanks for the information, though!”
Here’s a breakdown of that comment:
“Bahaha”- A condescending laugh which translates as “that’s ridiculous”.
“You make a good point.”- An honest compliment.
“But I doubt that by avoiding ketchup, you have succeeded in eating healthily.” – A correction of my quirky lifestyle. Totally missing the point, since I didn’t write the post in a tone of absolutes: “Because ketchup, in most cases, is paired with unhealthy foods that are either processed or fried.” Throughout the post I downgrade ketchup, yes, but I never say I refuse to eat it or that I don’t ever eat it. Nor did I say that I am trying to eat healthy by simply avoiding ketchup. Instead, I said: “So my general rule of thumb is, I stay away from foods that are enhanced by ketchup.”
“XD”- A slang symbol meaning “big smile”, an attempt to lighten the mood back.
“This is good stuff to know…” – Another compliment.
“But I also feel it is a little fanatical.” – A call to put me on the defense. Really? I’m a fanatic just because I made an observation that typically ketchup is a condiment for less healthy foods, namely processed and fried?
“Thanks for the information…”– A expression of gratefulness.
“…though.”- In other words, “Thanks for the info, despite how laughable most of it was.”
Looking through each line of the comment, it is interesting the way this reader used the pattern “negative, positive, negative, positive…” In fact, this may be the most perfect example I’ve ever seen of the classic case of the compliment intertwined with criticism. That takes talent.
I literally laughed out loud when I read the comment. Because it’s so tacky. I think, “Make up your mind, either insult me, or compliment me, but don’t do both at the same time. Commit.” I totally respect someone’s opinion if they truly disagree with mine and don’t have a subtle motive to undermine my efforts. But they have to be cool about it. Etiquette still exists.
Otherwise, like in this case, it just becomes a joke to me.
But it’s evident from that comment that the person probably makes a daily habit of correcting everyone else, likely with a sarcastic tone, in an subconscious effort to feel in control. Similar to the case of Some People Like Being Offended and/or Taking Advantage…
This event also reminds me of an excerpt of Christian Lander’s book, Stuff White People Like. He is explaining that some white people let a little bit of positive feedback go to their heads too easily and that it eventually can get out of hand. Therefore, he gives this advice to prevent that from happening:
“Do not dole out your praise like pinata candy… it is best to tease them with little bits of praise, balanced with a few barbs: ‘I have to hand it to you for putting KRS-One on that party mix. I mean, you went with a pretty well-known song, but still, good job’”.
It’s just funny that in the Internet world it’s somehow more acceptable to go around criticizing people for the sake of trying to sound smarter than someone else who was creative enough to invent. But I guess with the wave of online writers come just as many online critics. And my guess is that the critics aren’t themselves inventing any original content- just looking to start a sophisticated food fight about ketchup and mustard.
I say let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”. And when possible, find ways to truly compliment people, not find perceived fault in their creativity. There’s not enough of sincere complimenting going on in the world. Especially when “compliments intertwined with condescending criticism” are so popular.