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Why people say nice things

Luminous

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I personally don't see the purpose of white lies or how it's beneficial (or okay, I can see how it's beneficial for some people). How is being honest the same as getting critical?
One might as well just admit that the pizza has indeed been in the oven for too long- but as long as there's no black matter growing all over it we'll be fine. Who cares, everyone makes mistakes and we move on. I'd rather not make things 'prettier' than they are, accept that not everything is perfect and that it's nothing to feel bad about.

It would personally annoy me more that someone is trying to 'refute'/deny the truth (though then again whether you like pizza that's been in the oven for too long is subjective). That doesn't mean you have to point it out but if the person says something about it themself; they know. It's most of the time (in my eyes) obvious when someone is trying to 'coddle' and isn't being completely honest. In most situations it'll get on my nerves because I have a knee-jerk reaction to prove the person wrong.
But this is just my personal preference of course. Maybe some people prefer to receive a white lie (even though they know it's not true- or maybe some people genuinely believe it. I always had the idea that everyone can in some way see through white lies but I could be wrong.)

Criticism is a negatively loaded term. I'd say that thoughtful feedback is extremely useful (and to me important in order to be able to grow as a person).
Then again- feedback is not always wanted/needed and highly depends on the situation. As an example of someone sending me a drawing they are working on with the message 'something is a bit off'. They are in my eyes, welcome to feedback and I will tell them how I think they can improve their drawing (and I will most of the time also point out what's good). The person was happy with the feedback- it made their drawing look better and I was happy to be able to help. What would have been the use of saying 'No it looks just fine' when it does in fact not- and the person knows it doesn't? Since they were not directly asking me for feedback- but I read between the lines that they were open for it.

I think you're misunderstanding me. I don't mean that, for example, I would lie and pretend the pizza is perfectly done, that I would coddle and treat disrespectfully, but that if it's still not that bad and is edible, there's no point in rehashing that over and over. Much like what you said you'd do. And I would consider your example of giving criticism kind, helpful, and wanted. Worlds away from someone just deciding they should criticize someone harshly about something they don't want negative feedback about, like attacking their character in an unkind, unwarranted, bullying manner.
 
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The title of this thread reminds me of one those androids or vulcans on the space science fiction who are always needing an explanation of why people feel things. Spock is the best part of Star Trek, so I like this. That's what I came here to say. Now I will say something else, so it isn't a derail.

A compliment is a gesture of goodwill. It lets you know that you're not talking to a negative nancy who never has anything nice to say and only ever wants to drag folks down.
 

ceecee

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If someone feels the need to give me a compliment, go ahead. The individual is what makes the compliment sincere, imo not the compliment itself.
 

RadicalDoubt

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Will people say nice things to other people just to be polite? I tend to think people are more honest than that. While they may refrain from saying mean or critical things to be polite, or to avoid hurt feelings, they won't go so far as to make up nice things just to be polite, or evem to make another person feel good. In other words, I tend to accept positive comments - about myself or others - at face value since it is easy not to say anything at all.
It depends on the situation, but in normal circumstances I don't think people will say nice things to others just to be polite. I've seen, in instances when someone is being strongly praised with someone else standing nearby (ie. like in a job or school setting, more so with people who come across sensitive), the complimented will sometimes feel awkward leaving the secondary individual without some sort of praise, thus will politely provide the other person with a "oh you were doing good at that too ahah" out of awkwardness. Occasionally, I see this done after performances as well, it is customary to tell a person that they did a "good job" or that they "performed beautifully" regardless of the truthful opinion. I have seen people be explicitly irritated by people who provide real feedback after a subpar performance because it "discourages the person from doing what they enjoy." If not done constructively, I tend to agree and must say that I am definitely the one to tell the person they did well unless it was clearly not well or they have explicitly asked for my opinion on the matter, especially since people are typically very sensitive to these matters and me commenting that they did awful really doesn't do much but make the person feel bad.

I see "false" compliments given out more in moments when others seem to be struggling (ie. a person is struggling on a task and is clearly upset, sometimes another person will affirm them by saying they are a good job in attempts to motivate them to continue trying to complete the task, for example). Or of course, the obvious "wow that's gorgeous" you give to a child when they show you a picture they drew, even if it's just scribbles to encourage them to continue with art or another activity if it interests them, even if you don't actually think the scribbles are gorgeous. Of course, the latter is typically only done when prompted. At work, I had a girl try to use compliments to build comradery with me (mostly physical comments). I am unsure whether they were genuine or not, but it seemed to be socially based and something I haven't come across a lot (and I had no clue how to respond to this either haha).

Personally, I am mostly complimentary when I genuinely think another person has done well at a thing. Even in a motivation sense, I'm more likely to tell a person that they're almost there or point out when they've made progress rather than telling them they did well, though as I mentioned, with performances and child art sort of situations, I will not always be as truthful unless prompted or the person really needs to hear my opinion (ie. if you did awful, I'm not going to tell you you did good. Not sure if this is because I'm an awful liar or out of pity either). In general, I tend to not pay too much mind to the compliments other people give me, primarily because the only compliment I get is that "I'm smart or nice" (and those don't really give me any information to work with/ have always been used in my direction as space fillers or awkward ticks due to people not knowing how to deal with me). In general, praise/affirmation makes me feel almost as uncomfortable as criticism, so I tend to ignore it (or avoid getting most buy unconscious self sabotage I'm told or purposeful aversion of producing/sharing things I think are of poor quality).
 

Lady Lunacik

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@Coriolis
It may seem easy to not say anything at all, but for a lot of people, I think it's also pretty easy to say some artificial compliment. I've also seen some bitches who give compliments and then talk shit about the person behind their back. Kind of like Regina George in Mean Girls. I have an aunt like that, acting all nice to people and complimenting them effortlessly, and then whispering bitchy comments after they leave, which I hear. I can't help but wonder how many people are like that.
I've witnessed this in others also. However, in my experience it's generally accompanied by some other gestures that stand out as being...odd. For example, saying "I missed you" when they barely know you. This is because insincere people just really suck at faking sincerity often times.

It was always funny when an old roommate gave compliments, etc. to my face when I heard them turn around and talk shit about me in the living room while I was in my room (and they thought I probably couldn't hear as much as I actually could) all the time. It's fun to do that in general, really...pretend you don't hear as much as you really do so that they'll just keep thinking you don't and saying things.

EDIT:
I'll also note that it's often controlling individuals who will say polite things without meaning them. Saying nice things is just one way of ingratiating themselves. They may often use it to create a deflection as well: "I've been so nice to you! I've said nothing but good things about you! How could you say that about me?" when you point out some way they've wronged you, for instance.
 

Lady Lunacik

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Ingratiation - Wikipedia

"Complimentary Other enhancement is said to "involve communication of directly enhancing, evaluative statements"[1] and is most correlated to the practice of flattery. Most often, other enhancement is achieved when the ingratiator exaggerates the positive qualities of the target while leaving out the negative qualities. According to Jones, this form of ingratiation is effective based on the Gestaltian axiom that it is hard for a person to dislike someone that thinks highly of them. In addition to this, other enhancement seems to be most effective when compliments are directed at the target's sources of self-doubt. To shield the obviousness of the flattery, the ingratiator may first talk negatively about qualities the target knows are weaknesses and then compliment him/her on a weak quality the target is unsure of."
 

J. Starke

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The title of this thread reminds me of one those androids or vulcans on the space science fiction who are always needing an explanation of why people feel things.

hahah, true.

It feels good to hear nice things, that's why people say them, duh
 
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hahah, true.

It feels good to hear nice things, that's why people say them, duh

Coriolis might get complimented more than the average person (just a guess). And the average person would respond to it all with "I'M GREAT AND I KNOW IT BECAUSE EVERYONE SAYS SO!" Then everyone else would say that is an egotistical maniac and I shouldn't have encouraged it, and also, "I take it back! You suuuuuuuck!"

But we got a thread because it is Coriolis (just another guess).
 

Lady Lunacik

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The title of this thread reminds me of one those androids or vulcans on the space science fiction who are always needing an explanation of why people feel things. Spock is the best part of Star Trek, so I like this.
I see it as a rather valid and reasonable question. I think [MENTION=9811]Coriolis[/MENTION] is just thinking and analyzing deeper than the average person who basically just assumes they understand things and moves on. Often times, when people think something is very plain or obvious, they're actually just oversimplifying concepts.
 
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I see it as a rather valid and reasonable question. I think [MENTION=9811]Coriolis[/MENTION] is just thinking and analyzing deeper than the average person who basically just assumes they understand things and moves on. Often times, when people think something is very plain or obvious, they're actually just oversimplifying concepts.

Yes. I agree.
 

Lady Lunacik

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I take it back, I think pretty much any nice thing that comes out of anyone's mouth is artificial.

Not really, but sometimes it's tempting to become cynical enough to believe that.
 

J. Starke

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Fascinating signature quote. Are you a big fan of Churchill?

Well, not a big fan, but I do think he was a great leader. Hope you don't mind the links in my sig. Helps me rank better. Gotta feed my kids.
 

highlander

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Well, not a big fan, but I do think he was a great leader. Hope you don't mind the links in my sig. Helps me rank better. Gotta feed my kids.
I'm a big fan of Churchill. He is one of the best ESTP leaders in history as was Patton
 

Coriolis

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I got behind in replying again - my apologies. First, I wanted to note that my OP was not limited to compliments, but "nice things" more generally. Statements like, "I'm glad you were able to join us", "Thank you for sharing that", or "I'm sure it wasn't your fault" would count also, even though they aren't compliments. Discussion of compliments is certainly on-topic, though, and probably represents the bulk of the nice things people say to each other.

Second, I will note that the focus was on why people say these things, rather than how they receive them from others. Again, I don't consider the latter off-topic, and sometimes the two are linked. It has been interesting to read about both sides from those members who have addressed both.

To address specific comments:

Read my previous posts. Encouragement, not quite. Information, yes.
I did. You identified broad categories of compliments that you would reject/ignore, so I was trying to figure out what was left. Looks like feedback-style compliments from people with the expertise to assess the quality of what you have done.

People say nice things mostly to feel empowered or to curry favor, which they bury under self deceiving (yet validating) pretenses like "I'm a good and moral person" or "I am liked and appreciated," because the more accurate and specific the compliment is, the deeper and more warmly it will be received, therefore the more objectively valuable it is ("I am such an adept charmer.").

The only compliments I trust are the ones blurted out in impulsive awe. Anything with room for calculation either turns me off of has no effect.
Do you feel this way about positive statements made by, say, a boss or a customer? Where do you draw the line between compliments and positive feedback?

I personally think it's too hard to make something up. If I can't find anything to like about a person, I'm just not going to say anything rather than try to come up with artificial flattery. I can usually find something, even if it takes me a little while. If I have to use flattery to get ahead, or to get on someone's good side, that expends too much energy and just isn't worth it, in my eyes.
It might be easy to make something up, but I won't do it. It is no more than lying IME. I have given genuine compliments, that is, gone out of my way to find and comment on something I actually do like - when I am trying to encourage someone to be favorably disposed to me. Usually this is when I have to get someone's help with a pointless administrative task, either at work or e.g. dealing with the DMV. It always makes me feel sleazy, but I will do it as a means to an end if I think it will help.

I relate to what MovinOut says about connecting and what highlander mentioned about love languages. If I see someone often and they happen to be wearing earrings I like, why shouldn't I compliment them? It's helping create a positive interaction between us, and possibly facilitating conversation, and helping build or deepen a connection. Maybe telling that stranger at the store that you love his shirt that made you laugh out loud, that her skin is gorgeous, that her hair makes her like a princess, thanking the cleaner at the store for the good job they do to show appreciation, maybe those things will brighten those peoples' days. Words of affection are a huge love language for me, and I don't feel as valued if I don't get them. So I think on some level, I give sincere compliments because I want to make people feel good. But I generally don't give fake compliments. I might give a white lie if it's only going to be helpful and not hurtful (like telling someone that the pizza they accidentally left in the oven too long isn't that bad - what's the point in getting critical then, if they already feel bad? And it's not a big deal?)
If I give a compliment, it is always sincere, and is usually intended as positive feedback, to let the other person know the (positive) effects of something they have done or shared. It drives me round the bend when the recipient says, "Oh, you're just saying that to be nice." In fact, it is such responses that led me to start this thread. I don't do it "just to be nice", and wondered if others did, and how common that was.

I rarely give compliments in the circumstances you describe above, because I don't want the other person to take it as an invitation to further interaction or conversation. I do try to be good about offering thanks or appreciation, whether for good service as a customer, good work from a coworker, or simply a good deed from a friend or neighbor. I want the person to know that what they did made a difference, and to encourage them to keep doing it.

When is the time for criticism? That seems like the best question. Much of the time, it's not needed and isn't going to be helpful. I think it's best if given kindly, is helpful, and is actually going to make a significant positive difference; or if it's directly asked for; or if it's a professional setting where it's expected.
The time for constructive criticism is when it actually will be constructive: when it stands to do some good. I will offer it to younger coworkers or to students, to help them learn and improve. I will offer it when asked for it. I will also offer it when it is necessary to keep someone else from derailing or interfering with something I am doing. Sometimes they honestly don't know that their actions are causing a problem.

My first love language is words of appreciation so it may have something to do with the value I put on words as well. [MENTION=9811]Coriolis[/MENTION], because in general I tend to read a lot into the use or lack of use of words especially from people who enjoy them as much as myself. I do recognize that most people throw meaningless and empty compliments out and in general don't realize what power words of encouragement or discouragement can have. But I am not one of those people.
I would hate to put much stock into a compliment insincerely given. That's one reason I look for specifics that I can match up with what else I know.

I often feel proud of people who accomplish great things or do something special that uses their gifts. Not many things have this effect but it can bring me to tears. I don't think there is a need to analyze this so much. Sure there are people who flatter others in a manipulative way. As long as you learn to recognize those kinds of things its fine. To not be able to accept when people are providing genuine compliments and appreciate them seems to indicate issues with trust or self esteem. The problem is with the person on the receiving end. Even some flattery is fine IMO. Its harmless.
I agree completely with the highlighted. As I mentioned above, it is very frustrating to me when I give what I feel is a genuine compliment, and it is brushed off.

I don't know about compliments. I speak of facts. Some facts regarding someone might make me feel proud of them, and I let them know that, in one way or another. Sometimes through words, sometimes a thumb down, sometimes a punch in the gut, sometimes a roast,...etc. I like it that way.
Well, yes - if a compliment is not factual, it is worthless to me. Same with a criticism.

"Not genuine" is a tricky qualifier to apply to someone else's motivation. I think sometimes there can be an earnest motivation to make others feel better (or just to see the best in others) that authentically supersedes any priority to assess things in an objective light. This is to say, I believe exaggerated or inaccurate compliments can come from a genuine place without ulterior motives. Accuracy in compliments is something that actually takes a bit of skill, something which requires cultivation, and while it's a skill that I'm personally drawn to in others and appreciate (in fact, as I said, I'd list it as one of my 'needs'), I also recognize that others don't particularly need the same degree of accuracy. There are little details that reveal whether a person is issuing compliments out of kindness or strategy (Powehi outlined many of them), and yes, when it consistently seems a person is issuing them out of actual kindness I even find it a bit humbling (even if I can't handle exposing myself to a whole lot of it because I do have a threshold for inaccurate compliments - I recognize it's my threshold, not their shortcoming, causing my agitation).
I think I understand you. You raise an interesting distinction, between the sentiment being genuine and the substance of the compliment being genuine, i.e. accurate content. I guess I try to offer both when I compliment someone, and prefer to see both when I am complimented. I would rather receive something genuine on both levels, or nothing at all.

I think the security that it brings has to do with identity; if they can 'see past' the problematic behavior and focus on something positive, they get to feel secure in the notion that they're a benevolent person who sees the good in others. But the part I find grating is that it can enable problematic behavior. For example, in a work environment, maybe "Stan" is a fellow department head who needs other people to do things his way and is totally unapproachable about it (like his reaction to being told to let other people do a thing in their own way is SO strong that it's easier to just cave and do things his way, and pretend the consensus agrees). While I personally always keep in mind that we all do the best we can with what we know, I also know that sometimes "what we know" needs to expand for some people to get along with others; someone with reaction formation ("James") might feel like they aren't accepting Stan for who he is if they hold on to the idea that his behavior is unacceptable, and there will be an exaggerated focus on whatever positive thing Stan brings to the group (in attempt to) to drown out whatever negative is being stirred up by the bad behavior. It might work for James (i.e. it might effectively block the problematic behavior from their perception), and it almost certainly placates Stan to hear an emphasis on whatever positive thing he brings to the group *and* a dismissal of how problematic his behavior is, but it's stifling and dismissive to everyone else who has to continue to deal with the problematic behavior that James is enabling. (The compliments that James is giving Stan might even be relatively accurate, but if they are given at a precise moment to distract from an underlying issue then it's a problem. And I wouldn't even say it's "not genuine" on James' part to issue the compliments, because he sees it as true and he's just trying to be a benevolent person; in such cases a person can't see the forest from the trees and doesn't realize they're enabling a power imbalance.)
I have seen the behavior you describe here, and while I appreciate the effort to encourage the person to expand the part of their actions that are good, it always comes across as enabling what is bad. I suppose the companion question to "why do people say nice things?" is "why are some people so hesitant to say critical things, however kindly?" I especially fault supervisors for this. It is their job to be able to explain to eployees where their performance is falling short, and to help them improve, yet many seem reluctant to take the bull by the horns and do it. The Peter Principle is related to this.
 

highlander

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...because they're not Floridians.
The governor there seems pretty smart. The issue is his policies which are problematic.
 
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