Sketching Out a Strange Little Distinction

The other day, a friend mentioned he enjoyed the fact I thought about things.  Since I like the guy, I was instantly happy to hear he got a kick out of my thoughts.

A while later, I got to thinking about what he’d said and my reaction to it.  I decided he’d said exactly the right thing to make me happy.  If he’d told me he thought I was smart, I would not have been so happy to hear it, because I don’t routinely take much pleasure in being smart.  But instead he told me he enjoyed the fact I thought about things — and I’m usually happy to hear my friends enjoy me.  But that’s a strange little distinction, isn’t it?

I suppose it’s kind of like the difference between hearing, “You’ve got a great car!”, and “Thank you for giving me a great car!”.

At best, the first statement means, “I’m happy for you because you have a great car.”  That’s a good sentiment.  But “You have a great car!” can also mean other things — such as, “I am impressed by your ability to afford a great car.”  And, while there’s nothing horrible about that, it’s not such a remarkable sentiment as “I’m happy for you because you have a great car.”

Now, if we look at the second statement, “Thank you for giving me a great car!”, and we take it to mean the person enjoys the car we gave him, then isn’t it a lot more meaningful to us than, “I am impressed by your ability to afford a great car”?

And in a somewhat similar manner, when someone says they enjoy the fact we think about things, isn’t that more likely meaningful to us, than when someone says they are impressed by how smart they think we are?

Just wondering.

2 thoughts on “Sketching Out a Strange Little Distinction

  1. Sure, I can see your point. I think the way your friend phrased his compliment was more affectionate than simply applauding your intelligence.

    Funny how compliments from people we respect can last for years in our memories isn’t it? A remark from half my life ago remains a favorite of mine to cherish. Someone I barely knew but respected said I was a, “genuinely nice person” to a mutual acquaintance. I’m sure that person had no idea how those words would shape my future. I’ve tried to live up to those words ever since.

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  2. I generally ignore complements and continue on as planned. The things which stop me are when criticisms are phrased as genuine advice from those I respect. I think this all relates to the idea of framing and perhaps why some individuals ignore it completely. Typical complements are so frequent from our friends that they tend to be easily brushed aside, but these unique compliments we are not expecting are somehow more pronounced because of this. The one thing which strikes me as unusual about this isn’t so much the distinction between “you’re smart” versus “you think about things” but rather your reaction to ponder why you reacted this way to this phrasing. Perhaps one can only say that your reaction to this complement is only due to the atypical means of its expression. In any event, it inspired your curiosity, which is, in my opinion, among the greatest gifts to be given.

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