But I'd rather hear it, and be stronger for it, than live on in the delusion that I'm more awesome than I am.
I'm going to label you the "Almost-Hustler" now...
"Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"
“Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft
It seems to me that giving a character compliment, i.e. "You're a generous person," tends to strike gold more often than "I like your shoes" but when you give a character compliment that contradicts someone's concept of self, you backfire horribly.
I think a really good compliment is hard to do. Most compliments have ulterior motives (not that that's a bad thing, necessarily, it's just not a real compliment). I think most people are either suspicious of compliments or just plain uncomfortable getting them -- so it makes complimenting people an even tougher thing to do. About the only compliment worth getting is the one we really know we deserve -- something we've achieved that someone else understands what it's like to achieve. Unfortunately, how often is that going to happen?
Well the OP isn't really about the sincerity of compliments, there are plenty of threads around about that.
Honestly, people that are generally suspicious of being given a compliment I tend to connect that to trust and self-security issues.
Relationships have normal ebbs and flows. They do not automatically get better and better when the participants learn more and more about each other. Instead, the participants have to work through the tensions of the relationship (the dialectic) while they learn and group themselves and a parties in a relationships. At times the relationships is very open and sharing. Other time, one or both parties to the relationship need their space, or have other concerns, and the relationship is less open. The theory posits that these cycles occur throughout the life of the relationship as the persons try to balance their needs for privacy and open relationship. Interpersonal Communication Theories and Concepts Social Penetration Theory 1 Social Penetration Theory 2 Social Penetration Theory 3