The compliment is the most controversial positive social phenomena in existence. Compliments are often obvious and direct, but they can sometimes be hidden or subtle. The basic idea to is tell somebody that you like or appreciate something about them or something they did. If we were simple creatures, that would be the end of it. But there's so much more that we must consider. First of all is the compliment appropriate and does it fit the situation? You don't want to tell an executive of the opposite sex that they look hot in that suit even if you feel that way. With respect to courtship, compliments must be used judiciously so as not to appear desperate or overly doting. You also don't want to give anybody a big head.
And then there is the reciprocation factor. Many people expect compliments in return, (even if there is nothing to compliment). I've also come across people that give compliments freely because they are fishing for compliments for themselves. We all like to be appreciated, so compliments make us feel good and can be motivating. But some people take it too far, needing them as a self-esteem crutch. Others use compliments to establish position over somebody else. A compliment can indirectly indicate, "I'm good enough to critique you." Or, "I'm so secure that I can give compliments and I don't need them". In fact, I often make fun of myself as proof." Compliments are complicated.
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Maybe this partially explains why our world is so negative. Criticisms are sometimes easier and usually more appropriate. They often convey more useful information as well. If something is nice, a compliment won't Constructive criticism often lets the other person know how they can improve. And a criticism also shows a different kind of authority over the receiver.
Some people never give compliments. Perhaps they feel it, but don't say it and they take for granted what they already have. Or they want others to perpetually try to get a compliment from them. Why change the status quo if the status quo is good and compliments might cause unwanted change?
Receiving compliments is not always easy either. What does one say? I get a little bashful when somebody compliments me. Sometimes I don't feel worthy of the compliment. At other times I do feel deserving, but I feel obligated to reciprocate. And than I have to be sure that any compliment I give sounds genuine, and hopefully is genuine.
Compliments are nice, but they aren't all good. They need to be brought back down to earth. That's why I wrote this post.