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     Volume 6 Issue 20 | May 25, 2007 |

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Straight Talk

Who said Flattery will get you Nowhere?

I have heard about eating “five a day portion” of fruit and vegetables which is the recommended nutritional requirement for a healthy diet but giving and receiving five compliments a day was definitely a novel concept. Not that I would dispute the idea for a minute --- in fact it sounds like a genuinely great idea. The only thing is from personal experience, five compliments seem like a bit of a stretch and rather ambitious, don't you think? Forget five compliments a day; I would be happy with five a month! I was not even aware of the fact that there is also a “Compliment Day” which falls on the 24th of January. An idea created in 1998 by Kathy Chamberlin and Debby Hoffman both hailing from the United States. If I had known, I would have definitely demanded my share of those five compliments. Who doesn't need a bit of affirmation of worth every now and then?

To be perfectly honest, these days giving a compliment can be quite a dangerous thing. You never know how the other person is going to react unless it is your spouse or partner. Even then it can be a minefield. Imagine Mr. X saying, “Darling, have you lost weight?” patting himself on the back for noticing. On the one hand the response could be, “Oh you noticed --- that's so sweet” or on the other hand Mr. X may the recipient of an indignant, “You mean to say that I was looking fat before?” Basically, you could find yourself in a catch 22 situation. Then again if you happen to compliment someone at your work place it can be misconstrued as behaving too familiarly with colleagues and when taken to an extreme, one can even be accused of sexual harassment.

This reminds me of an article I read which stated that according to a survey, British men are too afraid even to pay women compliments. Out of the 1000 who took part in the survey, it seemed that although 89 per cent might love to receive a compliment, 67 per cent felt very uncomfortable if it the compliment came from anybody other than their husband or partner. To add to that 65 per cent of the women always suspected an ulterior motive behind any compliment coming from a stranger. The writer of this particular article, Adam Lusher, decided to test this theory and took to the streets of London, Oxford Street to be precise. He then proceeded to compliment women passersby on their looks and their clothes. The result was a countless number of glares and looks of contempt and even comments describing him as a “scary creep” and a “bit weird”! In this world of political correctness, we are also becoming a rather cynical and distrustful breed.

I think what we forget is that compliments do not necessarily mean just praising someone for their physical beauty. There are so many other things one can say, that have as much of an effect if not more, than just complimenting someone on how they look. For example I am sure most of us would be delighted to hear something along the lines of, “You are so thoughtful and kind”, “I love your sense of humour”, “you are a pleasure to work with”, “I really like your articles” (sorry, I could not resist slipping that one in...) etc. I know this may get me into trouble but it seems the case that Bangladeshi men are even less adept at paying compliments than their British counterparts. I may be wrong --- I would be delighted to be proved wrong but the male population do appear to be a little miserly with their praise! I have to interject at this point that I am not just talking about men complimenting women because it really should be a two way street. So ladies, put your thinking caps on and see if you can find five nice things to say about your husband, partner, colleague etc.!

It is one thing to give a compliment but it is true to say most of us are very bad at receiving compliments. We just have not mastered the art of receiving praise graciously. In the past I have found myself doing a bit of a Robert De Niro impersonation --- “you talkin' to me?” when random compliments have come my way. Then again laughing out loud when you are the subject of someone's accolade is a definite no no. On the one hand we feel that we are not appreciated enough and then when somebody takes the trouble to say something nice we complain that it is too cheesy or too corny. When someone tells you that your eyes are pools of melting chocolate and they would happily drown in them, a bout of thigh slapping laughter is not recommended nor is the helpful suggestion that there is a puddle nearby which would work just as well for drowning purposes.

There are however, some people who do not require other people to boost their ego as they seem to do a pretty good job themselves. It can be somewhat bemusing that before we have the opportunity to even open our mouth to say something we are beaten to it by the person in question. “You look lovely” can be greeted with a withering tell me something I don't already know! How nice it must be to be so self sufficient. I am sure these people are not suffering from a deficit of the required five compliments a day!

I have to admit that I am not going to travel the path of Mr. Lusher and try my luck at complimenting people at random. Though I will try and be a little more sensitive to the daily requirements of family and friends. Maybe I should make that my “middle of the year resolution”. But like me, if there are any of you who are not yet proficient in giving compliments or the art of flattery, and would like to hone your skills, I will gladly be of assistance. Feel free to try them out on me...

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