Many people simply don’t take compliments well. Yet, daily, I’ve made it a habit, nay, a call of duty, to give them. Obviously, if there is nothing or no one to compliment I don’t give one, but more than often there is, so usually I do.
Dictionary.com defines a compliment thus:
[n. kom-pluh-muhnt; v. kom-pluh-ment]
My compliments are not in any way restricted to a particular group of people or aspect and, as sincere compliments should be, they are unplanned and are presented just as coincidentally as the complimented.
Now, it has to be said that I compliment strangers most of the time – they are my target audience. I mean, my friends get it all the time, but that’s a given. With strangers, however, there is a something of a social experiment at play. But we’ll talk about that later.
My compliments range from:
But the compliments I give are also not restricted to visible style per se. I also compliment the scent of a women, a good pair of hands, striking eyes and even facial bone structure. I know. And many more I can’t think of – I’m sorry I don’t have my ‘To compliment – List’ in front of me.
As I am on the move on a daily basis, I’m bound to encounter something on someone that deserves a compliment. It’s just bound to happen. And as I am acutely observant, several compliments are pretty much inevitable. It’s as if the compliments give themselves.
Over the years, I have noticed that many people respond differently to compliments, especially one coming from an unfamiliar face like mine, bolting them out like it was handing out flyers. And let’s not forget that I’m just as strange to them as they are to me. But really, I don’t regard strangers as particularly strange in any way (not most of them, anyway), and, frankly, I’d rather not use the word ‘stranger’ – but for the sake of ease we will in this case.
I get a lot of interesting reactions after I’ve complimented a stranger – from the pleasant and expected smile and/or “thank you” to the blank, expressionless face. When I tell a girl she’s beautiful, I usually get back: a momentary pause, then a smile that grows bigger and bigger, followed by a bashful dart of the eyes. And this happens in all but three seconds. Sometimes, I get a “thank you” and a chuckle. And other times, I simply get a calm, self-assured glow. That compliment always seems to get a predictable reaction, and predictably so.
However, last Friday, I complimented two strangers – one was a guy in Pimlico, in a razor sharp suit, and the other was a lady at Victoria with an eye-catching dress on. Both completely blanked me. That’s not the first time that’s happened, although this reaction is rarer than the more amicable former. To this day, I can’t conclusively work out why I ran into a brick wall there – a hard, cold brick wall of aversion.
Both could have been embarrassed by my sudden out-of-the-blues comment, or they could have been sceptical about it. Or both. Either way, it seemed to grind some sort of gear with them. It’s these incidences that intrigue me and I have a few speculations as to why things panned out this way.
A stranger is approaching you from a distance, just as you are them from the opposite way. He slows down as he nears you and, as you close the gap between you two, he commends your well-sculpted cheek bones. But before you could go over it in your head, he’s walked off. So now, you’re thinking, “Hmm …. err … what – what was that about … who says that? …. and did he mean that? … pff … what a strange guy!”
You’re thinking, “Hmm … this guy with strange-looking hair has just complimented my well-sculpted cheek bones … in front of all these other fellow commuters …. now, if I respond with a “Thank you”, that may make me seem somewhat arrogant – approving appraisal of my, apparently, good features … (come to think about it, no one’s ever said that to me before … not a stranger on the street, no!) … hmm … I shall maintain an air of dignity and avoid making this already awkward situation even more awkward with an acknowledgement. *Blank*
And in my head, I’m thinking … “Hmm … (all my thoughts begin with ‘hmm’) … damn, I just broke social code just to be blanked … I just took that lady with the well-sculpted cheek bones out of her comfort zone, she got cold, ran back in and blanked me from the safe peering distance of her insecure-attic window, tucked under her safe and insecure-blanky …………….. fair enough.”
Or something along those lines …
In any case, as I am not in her head I can’t truly know what went through it when I said what I said, but not the slightest of smiles cracked her face as far as I can sharply remember. And I would say the true core of these compliments stem from my ploy to challenge certain things about social constructs – putting people in positions they may not naturally or usually be in – all because they are socially awkward at base and scenarios like these upset their rhythm a tad. When a stranger comes along and upsets the rhythm, we could either respond favourably or unfavourably. We give the best of both worlds. So as pleasantly surprised as some may be to get a compliment, others may be ashamedly shocked. And that right there, strangers, is the complexity of humanity in a nut shell.
And this game of compliments I play everyday is only the tip of the iceberg. I plan to dissipate even more stratagems into society that will wreak awkwardness. I plan to post up my flag in every un-comfort zone there is – so the rhythm won’t just be upset, it’ll be a lonesome cry-baby.