Christiaan Lam – over de dagelijkse avonturen van een mobiele manager
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Compliment == harassment?

Yesterday a politician was featured on the news. He apologised for complimenting a female employee on her looks. It might be of course that his tone of voice insinuated more then that, but let’s just say that he indeed meant only to compliment. And he was then berated for it. Personally, I think it is kind of silly. We should compliment more.

I say this because one of the deficiencies of our anglo-american culture is that performing well is the norm and failure is ascribed to external factors usually. Being a well-performing person in a contingent of equally well-performing people (or at the least, not failing people) there is often too little reason to give a compliment. You are, after all, just performing your job for which you get paid, right? And giving compliments then might give people the idea they are performing above the norm and expect something for their exceptional accomplishments. So, we do not compliment and the circle is round; we keep the non-complimenting status quo as it is.

Stubborn as I am, I will of course not comply with the status quo. Taking the example I mentioned in my opening statement, if I think you look good, I will tell you so. That does not mean automatically that I have a crush on you. Really. It doesn’t. It means I see that you have made an effort of your presentation towards the outside world in general or me in specific and that I appreciate that. No more. No less. And seeing it an another (sexually intimidating) way can just as easily be ascribed to either party (both sender and receiver, see more about this subject here).

Of course, you might argue that by complimenting on your looks I am ignoring your professional skills. It does not. Really. It doesn’t. Your outward appearance is, by definition, a reflection of your inner state (and therefore a reflection of your attitude towards your personal presentation). Wearing a suit, a tie, jeans or a sweater or just blatanly not caring at all what you wear: it is all a statement. As Oscar Wilde put it: “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances”.

What also strikes me is that when I actually do make a compliment (or just comment in a positive way) people often feel the need to actually ‘defend’ themselves, explaining to great lengths how they came to a certain point and what they did to achieve whatever it is that deserved that compliment. Believe me, you don’t need to. Really. You don’t. If I want to know why, I will ask you for it.

To prevent further misunderstandings here’s the 3 Commandments Of Complimenting:

    1) do give compliments, whenever something strikes you as positive, nice, goodlooking, or otherwise worthy of a compliment.
    2) keep the compliment simple and straighforward
    3) when you receive a compliment, just take it. Say ‘thank you for the compliment, that is very nice to hear’ with a genuine smile.

I hereby call upon you all to help me break the status quo and just give a compliment today, to anybody that deserves it.

And to be absolutely and utterly unabiguous: complimenting you on your looks does *not* automatically mean I want you in my bed. Really. It doesn’t. If I want you in my bed, I’ll tell you.

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