Complimenting Grace

Ok, this is going to be a bit of a rant because this annoys me no end. You’ve been warned.

I don’t know whether it is the Indian cultural mindset, an Asian cultural mindset, or a global mindset that really needs a kick up the ass. But I do not understand why giving compliments – nice, thoughtful compliments, which gives credit to the person on the receiving end – are so difficult for some people.

Case in point: when I was in school in Dubai, I hated it, especially the later years. They were extremely negative people who took all the joy out of learning. It has taken me years to unlearn all the bad behaviour I had accumulated at a result of this. [By the way, I am totally over it. I view the whole experience as a learning moment that I needed to grow.]

After I left school, I went to UK for a couple of years. On my first break back home, I went to my school to meet some old teachers and friends who were there. [I don’t really know why either. I’ve never done this again.] I encountered the girls’ supervisor, a particularly vicious toad who took immense pleasure in decimating me. My father and I spoke to her, and my father said to her that I was doing exceptionally well at the sixth form college I was attending. To which she says: “Oh! Our shouting has finally had some effect! Good.”

Right. That was the obvious conclusion to draw. Not that I flourished as soon as I got AWAY from that toxic environment, no, I was doing well BECAUSE of the toxic environment. At the time I was 15 years old, and completely unequal to the task of taking the fiend down a few well-deserved notches.

But the anecdote serves to illustrate my point: none of the credit of success was laid at my door. It was all appropriated by them. I know that no one succeeds on their own, but hell my success was not attributable to them at all! The people who do deserve credit are as follows, in descending order: my parents [incredible support and visionaries], my teachers at the new college [dedicated to their work and exemplary in every way], and lastly me [for doing the actual work].

Indians, when speaking to younger people, are chronically incapable of being appreciative of a younger person’s accomplishments. In a day and age where positive reinforcement is so much a thing, Indians still do the exact opposite.

Another case in point: Scoring 95% on a particularly hard exam won’t merit a “Well done!” but a “Where did you lose the remaining 5%?”

If someone can’t take even obliquely credit for something, because they are entirely uninvolved with the process, they will be supremely condescending. I see this phenomenon play out on my aunt’s Facebook time and again. She is a prolific crafter, and crochets, tats, and beads very pretty things into being. And while her overseas [read: foreign] friends will say things along the lines of: “Wow, that’s amazing! Must have take you so long. Beautiful.”, her Indian [mostly male] friends will say: “Good. Keep it up.”

This is not an acceptable compliment. This is not an acceptable remark. In fact, if this is all one can say, best to shut up.

There is no trick to being gracious when complimenting someone. It is simply a question of appreciating someone for who they are or what they have done, laying all the credit at their own feet.

It is not difficult to be kind. It is not difficult to be nice. It is definitely not difficult to say something to someone which one would like to hear if places were exchanged.

It certainly doesn’t make one a lesser person.


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