I’d Compliment Him, But…  

Posted by Matt

“…but I’m afraid he’d get a big head.”

That’s a lame excuse to not focus on and compliment someone on his strong areas. Trust me, everybody, including those who strut around thinking they’re all that and a bag of chips, knows they have weaknesses. Most people are insecure in some way. In fact, I’d bet that most often, the braggart is bragging because he’s insecure. He’s got to publicize just how awesome he hopes people think he is.

So…what? You’re going to be an encouraging Christian, a great leader, empowering others, mirroring the love of Christ, improving the performance of those around you…by making someone who could be freaking amazing in a particular area more insecure because they’re already insecure enough to be a swaggering braggart?

You know what really gives people “big heads?” Complimenting them on something they’re not good at. When you flatter people (aka lie to them to make them believe they possess some talent or asset they don’t actually possess), they get an inflated, or false sense of accomplishment, which creates what we think of as a “big head.”

When I work with my peers or with high schoolers, and they complain about how hard it is to get along with So-and-so, I suggest they buy that guy a Coke, smile at him, and find something authentic to compliment him on—then they’ll see if he’s really all that hard to get along with. Often, So-and-so is hard to get along with because we treat him like he’s hard to get along with.

Compliment him? Am I crazy? That jerk already has a big head as it is! I think anyone who’s afraid to pay someone else a compliment for any reason is the one with ego problems.

And what if someone is actually a sour-puss and is hard to get along with? Are we going to make it a more pleasurable working environment by labeling and treating So-and-so like a jerk?

What? Are we really, actually content to: not help him become likeable, treat him like he’s a jerk, complain about how jerky he is, and hope the jerk finally leaves so this place will finally be bearable?

That’s about as retarded as electing Hellen Keller to drive for your carpool.

If you have any hope of making your environment bearable with So-and-so around, it looks like you’re the one who needs an attitude adjustment. Again, buy him a Coke, smile at him, and find something to authentically compliment him on. I’ve yet to meet anyone (though I’m sure there’s someone who can prove me wrong) who stays a jerk to me when I treat them nice—especially when they’ve been outrageously jerksome.

The whole “more flies with honey” thing totally applies. I’ve gotten way more free drinks from grumpy waitresses than from the already-in-a-good-mood waitresses (hint: make someone’s day better by treating them awesome, and they’ll pay you back in kind).

What’s more, I’ve become more useful as a leader, often because I’m the only one who invested myself in So-and-so, the jerk. I’m the only one who can get him to do something because he trusts me and likes me for some weird reason.

Maybe because I’m the only one who doesn’t treat him like a jerk!

Believe me, I’m not perfect in this way (or any other way) and I’ve regretted many times before irreparably losing what could have been a future ally.

…oh yeah…and treating people nice is Biblical, not just pragmatic.

A list of verses where we’re commanded to love and treat one another in neighborliness:

Ephesians 4:2 Hebrews 10:24 1 Peter 3:8 John 13:34
Last thought: you are commanded by the Bible to love one another. That doesn’t mean you have to be best buddies with everyone. Some people are just a little hard to get along with than others. So-and-so might just be that rare jerk that’s a jerk no matter what. Fine. Love him from far away. Treat him kindly and patiently in the interactions you have to have with him and still buy him a coke every now and then. If he’s a jerk to you, no skin off your nose.


What if the Jerk prefers Pepsi? Now you've insulted him and he's an even bigger jerk to you...

Seriously though, I agree with you. If more people realized that it is almost impossible to change someone else without first changing yourself (showing love, respect, etc.) the world would be a better place. I sure do wish I realized that more often.

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I'm just a suburban guy. I wish I were hardcore, I wish I were tougher, I wish I listened to cooler music, I wish I weren't a lush, I wish I had big muscles, cooler hair, and some rad tattoos, I wish I were smarter, cooler, and sexier, I wish I knew how to play guitar. Instead, I'm just a band geek, power-nerd wannabe, WoW gamer, 30 year-old dad and husband. I play french horn, I read the Vampire Chronicles as well as the Chronic-WHAT?!-les of Narnia, I like movies, but not all the snobby-artsy ones I'm "supposed" to see, and a good meal to me is Miller Lite with chicken patties topped in barbecue sauce. ...oh...and I have a big mouth.


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