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Why people say nice things

Coriolis

Liberator
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Apr 18, 2010
Messages
26,752
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INTJ
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sp/sx
Some people advise to say a nice thing / open words of compliment along with your criticism / comment, but I tend to really... Really hate scripting things that way. I can reword the things I had originally intended to say or go the extra mile and offer reassurance that I'm not angry or whatever it is, but including things I hadn't previously thought of just to make it palatable is pushing it for me.
Me, too. That frequently given advice to sandwich a critical comment between two complimentary comments just makes me want to gag. Fortunately in most cases when I am called upon to give criticism, there are obvious strengths or accomplishments to comment on as well, which makes it easy to be honest and follow my natural preference while also avoiding (I think) giving offense.
 

Pioneer

New member
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
Messages
58
It's easy to disguise abuse as constructive criticism though. It seems more trustworthy because it's easier to believe, but really, that's part of the danger of it, too: you believe it...when actually, you could be perfectly fine. It's very easy for it to lead to a psychological "scarring" or a pattern of constantly picking apart your flaws and striving for a goal of perfection that you'll always perpetually fall short of. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy, or "not being good enough" regardless of how hard you try. It can lead to feelings of inferiority, particularly in relation to the person offering "constructive criticism" (which it may not actually be despite being disguised as such, and even if it genuinely is, it can still be toxic when it's excessive...and whether it's excessive probably varies according to the individual). Often times, those corrections are actually just subjective preferences, also, and it's simply that the person isn't allowing you to be yourself because they personally prefer that you're some other way they like more instead.

Furthermore, constructive criticism that you mention here is essentially a form of negative reinforcement. People can give positive reinforcement corrections as well though, which saying nice things would be one possible component of / tool in. This is how cats are trained, actually, and negative reinforcement doesn't work on them the way it does on dogs. Despite this, the positive reinforcement is how you can train them to stop doing negative behaviors. I honestly think a lot of people work this way as well...some responding better to positive reinforcement, that is. I also think each of them may be more appropriate, effective, or suitable, depending upon the situation. For instance, you wouldn't use negative reinforcement / constructive criticism when people are being uncomfortably tense and awkward guests at a dinner party.

The danger of constructive criticism is that 1) it's difficult to tell what exactly is "too much" or "constant," (as "constant" may be one thing to person A, and another to person B, another to C, and so forth; it's subjectively defined, typically by the person's internal affective response, and a lot of people won't stand firmly on those boundaries, especially if accused of being obstinate or defensive or something by doing this) and 2) the other danger of it is that someone's honesty is easily mistaken for the truth, and a person who honestly believes it is such and gives a lot of constructive criticism may revisit the accusation and even make more 'constructive criticism' comments about the fact that the person does not receive it as truth. If the person caves or ends up believing it, there is the risk of both leaning on this person's judgment too much (at the expense of independence) and/or conforming to someone's subjective standards, values, and so forth.

By the way, this is a tactic that can often be seen being employed by narcissists who see you as an extension of themselves and mold you to their expectations, standards, values, views, etc. Just because someone is being "honest" (saying something they believe is true) doesn't mean they're more trustworthy, and if it's constant then it's definitely--not just a red flag, but a red banner, honestly. Similarly, just because someone uses a lot of positive feedback instead, doesn't mean they're not encouraging changes in the same way as the individual(s) giving constructive criticism.

I do think I still prefer non-constructive honesty in others to "constructive" dishonesty though. It's one of those "at least I know who I'm dealing with" impressions. It might mean that the you are incompatible with the other person, if they try to change you as per their subjective preferences (or you them) which is better to know as soon as you can. Honesty saves everyone's time.

I can think of a few real-life examples of abuse being disguised as constructive criticism, but not much. Most criticism I've experienced doesn't feel like abuse to me (the stuff directed at me as well as at others), the exception being when there is an ulterior motive or narcissism.

If you express constant dissatisfaction with someone, perhaps it's best to take some distance from that person. Maybe you guys aeren't compatible, which would explain the disatisfaction you have with them or their way of being. If you keep coming back to that person and the problems recur, it might be best to stop interacting with them, if possible. That doesn't mean the person who expresses disatisfaction is abusive - in fact I highly disagree most expressions of disatisfaction are abusive. Usually people express disatisfaction towards abusive behavior. And it isn't abusive to express disatisfaction. I'm basing myself on real life examples here I've experienced.

Also another thing is that when giving criticism - this is crucial - is to focus on facts. Statements like "you always do that" or "you never call me back" are blanket accusations. Attacking character is also not constructive. On the other hand, focusing on facts, things that actually happened without attacking character or making blanket statements about how the other person "is", is more constructive. IME, people who can't take this kind of feedback are dodging responsibility. I don't think it's abusive to be annoyed with someone who doesn't own up to their lack of responsibility.
 

Pioneer

New member
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
Messages
58
[MENTION=36353]Aerix[/MENTION]

There is also the fact of the intent behind the criticism.

Saying "I don't like your haircut, change it for me" is trying to change the person for you. This is unhealthy, as noone should have to change for anyone else.

On the other hand, "You didn't tell me on time about not going to the musuem with me, and it really upset my schedule" is perfectly healthy. You are saying why what the other person did bothered you. You aeren't saying they can't cancel going to the musuem - you're leaving them the freedom to do what they want, but you are saying it was a problem for you. You could add "I would have appreciated you to tell me as soon as you could you had a change of plans, so I could have invited Mike instead". There is nothing abusive about that, on the contrary, it is the kind of honesty I give my friends and expect them to give me.

Criticism is so broad in terms of what situations we are talking about, what type of relations we are talking about (criticism in a teacher-student relationship doesn't serve the same purpose as criticism between friends. The example above is more like what I would say in the context of friendship or dating, equal relations where there is no hierarchy.), what is being criticized, the intent behind the criticism, and how it is framed.
 

Muladara

Member
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Nov 26, 2020
Messages
74
MBTI Type
FIRE
Enneagram
AIR
Like with anything else compliments can come from different places/are given for different reasons:
to facilitate communication, to build a connection with you, to encourage a trait in you, to lift your mood/confidence, etc... whether they are genuine or not it's a different question.
The motivation behind it doesn't necessarily determine if they mean what they say/are genuine.
For example someone may give you a compliment when they think you feel bad to cheer you up, but they genuinely mean it or they can make something up for the same reason.
More often than not I believe whatever their intention may be, that it's easier to compliment someone on something that you believe it's true about them, then to make something up.
So to answer your questions: no I don't think you're wrong about accepting positive compliments at face value, as for myself I only give genuine compliments, though the reason behind my actions might be different depending on the situation, as for other people the same applies: sometimes they mean it, sometimes they don't, at the end of the day what matters is your reaction to whatever they say.
 

Abcdenfp

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May 19, 2017
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1,669
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7W8
I think that compliments much like positive reinforcement are really really uncommon. especially genuine expressions of this. I do it because most people are so caught up in negative thoughts about themselves that they forget the things about them that are great. I am always trying to look for the things that make people awesome. which is why if i tell you "you're a dick" trust me "you're a dick"
 
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