You're the friendly one. Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
When we give a compliment to someone, we are recognising, respecting and essentially liking a positive quality we see in them. What I have noticed, is that when I or another person gives a compliment to another (most often a friend), the other party responds that it is we that possess the quality: “Oh, You’re “”very caring”” and that you ”have a good sense of humour.” Essentially, 80% of the time, it seems the quality that is being extolled in the person we are complimenting is being reciprocated.
I have a theory about why this happens. I don’t believe it is merely the seconding of good will to the one who praised us, given unthinkingly and/or insincerely. Just suppose I say to somebody, “I love your sense of humour.” How do we know they have a good sense of humour, or at least in our eyes, recognise they appreciate a laugh as well as recognise funniness in situations...that is in making others laugh?
Just suppose we didn’t have a sense of humour ourselves, and one thing we found difficult was seeing the lighter side of life. Essentially, we would find it hard to tap into this quality because we didn’t possess it. If we didn’t have the quality of “having a good sense of humour” ourselves; we wouldn’t only find it hard to dig for this trait within ourselves, but we would have trouble seeing it in other people. So, when the person who we compliment recognises the quality being in ourselves, maybe they are recognising this mirroring, this seeing in others what lies within us.
To use another example, say you tell somebody “you have a lot of empathy,” we would have trouble even naming the quality of “empathy” if we hadn’t found it in ourselves on some level; if we hadn’t experienced empathy in our own lives.
So, when you give a compliment to another person, genuinely and with thought, you are reflecting back to yourself that on some level you possess the trait you are acknowledging in the other person. If you say “you’re a very caring person” to someone, you must know what it’s like to care; to have experienced that emotion on some level.
I guess it works the other way around, too. For example, I believe (ashamed to say) that I can have a bad temper. When I experience someone reacting to me who I deem to also have a quick temper; it’s because I know what it’s like to be that way on some level and at times. If I was essentially very calm and even-tempered and more peaceful in temperament; I might have a hard time acknowledging a temper in another, because I haven’t “been there” myself. I would have difficulty recognising a trait present in another, because I wouldn’t be able to relate to it myself.
Therefore, next time you find yourself complimenting someone, think also the following: “that quality must also lie within me.” I guess, to keep the scales balanced - seeing yourself in others’ negative qualities can also be a learning experience, if we wish for this to be so. Perhaps it’s more useful not to think of qualities as good or bad, but just accept them as being a complete package of who we are.
We are mirrors of other people. We can’t see a quality in another unless we know what the experience is like to have that quality ourselves, personally.