Can You Give a Compliment?

 

Have you ever made a man angry by accepting a compliment with confidence instead of demure, shy embarrassment or shock?

Yeah, this really is a thing. You can read about it in this fascinating BuzzFeed article, which goes into plenty of examples of various men getting pissed off when a woman says “thanks” or “I agree” instead of “oh my god, you’ve changed my life” after a simple compliment. You can probably come up with examples of your own.

For me personally, when people say I’m really smart, I say, “Yes I am,” because I’ve known that since I was 5. It’s not the most interesting thing about me, and it’s certainly not the number one thing I care about. People’s reactions when I say “Yes I am” tend to fall in one of two camps:

(1) They’re cool with it because they don’t take it personally that I’m smart, perhaps smarter than them. They see the real me and like me.

(2) They get hostile or have a need to prove their own intelligence, which means they both resent my intelligence and don’t actually know me, because I’m not a person who holds my IQ over anyone’s head. No one has to prove they can match wits with me. I wouldn’t even mention intelligence except that it fits this blog post.

But the real point is… you can learn a whole lot about how other people see themselves and the world by how they react when you respond to something they say.

It’s All About Power

downloadWe live in a culture where so much is about power, in so many ways. It’s an insidious problem not just because it’s so entrenched in everything we do, but because it can’t be eradicated until we learn to see power differently than the entrenched cultural norms teach us to do.

You see, there are essentially two ways to seek out power for yourself:

  1. You can seek it outside of yourself.
  2. You can find it within yourself.

Let me tell you from experience as a person who used to care a lot about what other people thought about me, and had to learn to let go of defining my self-worth in terms of what others think: It is an exhausting and futile way to be in this world if all you do is let other people determine how much agency and self-respect you have.

Your sense of being grounded and unmovable by the fickleness of day-to-day living has to come from a sense of having your own roots growing into the ground. Just like a tree, seriously. The tree’s roots come from itself so it can ground itself and create stability for itself. It doesn’t get roots from other trees, though some trees can gather together and strengthen each other, like palms do. Their roots grow together and create new trees. But the fact remains, each palm tree has its own roots too. You’ve got to build your own roots. Otherwise, you’ll be pushed around by every wind that blows up around you, and you’ll constantly feel unsettled and miserable.

How Power Struggles Screw Up Our Interactions

power 2Where you seek power (from outside or from within) is a key issue in so many power abuses and wrong-headed social interactions that plague our society. Imagine this:

You don’t feel powerful. You believe — because it’s how you have been taught, it’s what you learned on the playground — that your power, prestige, self-respect, confidence all depend on whether others approve of you and interact with you in ways that confirm your power. In this scenario, literally everyone else has some say in how much power you have. People more powerful than you can make or break you by accepting you or rejecting you. People less powerful can bow to your power, confirming your power. Or they can resist, shaming you and forcing you to shame them worse to restore your power.

This explains bullying, mean girls, narcissistic personality disorder, abusive behavior, road rage and so much more, doesn’t it? Even at a young age, kids are doing this to each other on the playground. The boy who is considered the leader can bring another boy into the crowd, giving him social acceptance, or he can declare the other boy the subject of ridicule, and suddenly the other boy is a reject. Other kids follow suit because they don’t want to be outcast too. Girls do this too. Boys do it to boys, and they do it to girls. Girls do it to girls, and they do it to boys. It infuses everything we do as we grow up unless we break the cycle.

What an exhausting way to live. But so many people live that way, because they haven’t learned another way.

So Break the Cycle, for Crying Out Loud

The other option for finding your sense of power is to realize that you exist in this world with a degree of self-agency or strength that comes from within, regardless of what happens outside you. At the least, you get to choose how you will react to what happens. And that means a lot, much more than many people realize.

Consider the a**hole who flips you off as he drives past you, shouting at you even though you haven’t done anything except to not meet his expectations, whatever they are. That guy can ruin your day if you choose to let it. Or you can choose to recognize that his problem is his problem…that he was angry long before he passed you on the road and he’ll be angry long afterwards, and you were simply a convenient target for him to justify continuing to be angry instead of dealing with his anger like a grownup.

In fact, this is essentially what is happening when a women gets a compliment, says thank you (which is polite, yes?), and is then judged or attacked for saying thank you. It’s like a drive-by road rage incident, and had nothing to do with her. Some women understand this, and they just keep trucking along happily, which is the right response. (Though it is definitely tiring to have it happen to you day in and day out.)

When a Compliment Is Not Actually a Compliment

slider4

Great article from a woman’s perspective about learning to say thank you

When you see a man giving a woman a compliment and then taking it back because she agrees with what is being said, it was never actually a compliment to begin with, was it? It was never meant as a genuine expression of admiration and appreciation and respect. Instead, the comment was born out of anger, resentment, jealousy… It was born out of a feeling of powerlessness that the guy is trying to resolve by asking someone to feel more powerless in his presence and to acknowledge that he has more power, even if only a little bit. When that script doesn’t get followed, the rage comes to the surface instead of bubbling below it, because he feels it is being confirmed that he doesn’t have power.

And because the rage comes to the surface and gets expressed, it feels like what it is — a form of abusiveness. Because when you give a compliment to someone only to get a specific reaction from them that meets your needs, not theirs, you’re acting in a way that is clouded by your own distortions of life. You’re thinking about you, not the other person. You want to receive something, and you feel like you have to manipulate someone else to get it. That’s abusive. It’s passive aggressive. People don’t like this, for obvious reasons.

The solution is pretty simple, really. And it applies to both men and women, and to more scenarios than just this issue of accepting and giving compliments:

Learn how to find your sense of power, confidence, strength and respect from within yourself, and how you see yourself, not in how other people see you, speak to you or react to you. You don’t have to wait on anyone else to confirm or deny you are worth something. You you don’t have to agree with them when they tell you that you aren’t worth anything. And you can learn to deal with frustrations without hurting other people.

Oh, I know, I know… I could go on about toxic masculinity, or the patriarchy. I could explain that it’s #notallmen, though it’s certainly a #lotofmen, more than it should be. I could talk about how this problem hurts men as well as women. I could talk about all kinds of things. But ultimately, changes like this have to happen inside each person as they make the decision to stop giving their power over to the reactions and responses of others.

Now imagine this: You say to someone, “Hey I like this thing about you.” And they say, “Yeah, so do I.” And so you say, “Awesome! We have something in common. Let’s keep talking.”

Not a bad alternative, to say the least.

PS. If you like talking or thinking about stuff like this, go listen to Collective Snark’s podcast episode on How to Talk to Girls, and Guys, and Anyone in Between. It’s good stuff.

The spoils of the library book sale.

 

img_1772.jpg

I do think at times I have some psychic moments.

Since Thursday I have been thinking about this one library that I never go to.  I think I have been there once or twice maybe in the last several years, but only to run over a pick up a book they held for me, never having the time to browse around.  It’s just not in my neck of the woods, so to speak.

But anyway, anyway….so, I had been thinking about it and since my hubby and both sons were out of town on Saturday, I took my mom out to this library on a whim.  But there, dropped across the front doors was a sign from the Universe!

It read, Library Book Sale!

Cue chorus of angels!!  

Library book sales are the best!  

All paperbacks fifty cents, hard covers, $1.00 and large hard covers, $2.00.  And at this sale you had a very active and helpful “Friends of the Library,” volunteer staff who said all kinds of wonderful things such as, “Can I help you find something?  Could I take those for you so you don’t have to carry them around?  Would you like them in a large box or bags?” 

That last statement will mean a lot to those like me who clear out trunks and bring wheelbarrows to events such as this.  

My entire bill was twelve dollars.  Twelve dollars!

I worked that sale like the professional I am.

Step One  – seek out the miscellaneous box.  This box has all the books which don’t fit in a specific category.  Many novices pass over it because they don’t want to dig through, but you run the risk of missing some real gems.  In the miscellaneous box I found a beautiful Funk & Wagnalls, copyright 1909, Best of the World’s Classics, edited by Henry Cabot Lodge book.  I’m not a “how-much-is-it-worth-person,” but I do know that this small book is pretty hard to find and will be a great addition to my classics collection. IMG_1770

Step Two look for the books you always wanted to get, but never did.  I loved watching the original Carl Sagan Cosmos series on PBS all those years ago and I always thought I would buy the book, but it just never happened.  I got it yesterday for $2.00.  IMG_1768

Step Three – access Goodreads.  I used to think this was cheating, because part of the fun was discovering a new author on your own, but now…well, money is harder to come by and I have grown reclutant to go exploring on my own.  The lovely community of Goodreads convinced me to purchase, My Several Worlds, by Pearl S. Buck.

Step Four– the travel box.  So much of the travel box is filled with out of date Michelin guide books, snooze!  But if you root around in there you can find some wonderful stuff.  I always look for the travel books written in the fifties and sixties.  The war had ended and a lot of people had the cash for travel, so the travel books have lots of lovely photos and the prose is meant to entice.

Step Five- get a little shallow and go for looks.  Let’s face it, some books are just more attractive than others.  And the library book sale is probably one of the only times you can justify buying for looks only.  My mother got some wonderful needlepoint books which are stunning and I got a lovely book of ghost storiesIMG_1767 with hands-down some of best illustrations I have seen in years.

Step Sixtext books.  I love old text books because of the marginalia.  Whenever I see a text book shelf I first look for the subject matter which appeals to me.  I will be passing on the chemical engineering and the geology, but I love to look in the humanities sections.  Then I thumb through and look for the notes.  This may be some kind of phychosis, but I love to see what others have written to themselves in textbooks.  Yesterday I found a wonderful book, Reading for a Liberal Education, which is filled with notes and some kind of mysterious short hand.  IMG_1769

Step Seven – talk to the other shoppers.  Some book sale shoppers are out for blood.  You know who you are.  But most are wonderful and willing to swap and help you look if you help them.  For example, “Excuse me, I see you have a lot of mysteries there, well, I just saw a wonderful book of Ed Gorey art in the miscellaneous box, if you are interested,” or I’m sorry, but I can’t help, but notice you have the only copy of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, would you be willing to trade for my hardback Isaac Asimov Collected Works?” 

Ah the Library Book Sale!

Good times….good times….

 

 

The Alchemy of a Story

What makes a good book a great book?  

A question that has been debated by far more brilliant minds than mine.  But what the heck!  Let’s pour out some more tea, pull up a chair and see what we come up with.

I just finished reading two books –

“Murder Most Austen” by Tracy Kiely and “The Razor’s Edge” by W. Somerset Maugham.

They were both good books, but only Maugham’s was a great book.  But before you go all I-knew-you-were-going-to-say-that, let me just take a moment to say why.

The Kiely book was everything it said it was going to be.  It was fun and charming and it took me away to The Jane Austen Festival in Bath, where I have always wanted to go.  The author kept me interested in the story and her descriptions were well written enough to where I felt the experience of the festival, as much as the heroine.  This book helped me accomplish a goal.  It had aided in my escape from the realities of an almost fifty-year old working mother.

But it didn’t make me….feel. 

Maugham did that.  In his meandering, lengthy character study, with no great plot twists, he somehow poked a hole in me and I felt.  When I closed the book last night, I lay in my bed with the melancholy of a trip ended, a passage closed.  Larry, Isabel, Sophie, Eliot, they were truly gone and I felt such an emptiness.  But they were never real people.  They were only words on a page…letters strung together.

Words and letters only….words and letters that made me feel.

How is that possible?

I can’t even being to contemplate.

But isn’t it amazing.

Returning to them.

So I tried to save the world.

But it was grasping and hand aching to tug and pull so much.

Defeated I put the world away on the high shelf.

Then I tried to clear my mind,

But I couldn’t get the memories to come unstuck no matter how hard I tried.

I lay face up in the bed, not praying.

My guilt and shame at leaving them bore a hole right through me.

“I can’t promise you anything,”  I told them.

Their returned silence meant they didn’t want to hear my excuses.

This morning I picked them up and slowly read about their lives.

Let’s see, Annie was stuck in the cave and the water was rushing in….

Seth and Luke were locked in a fierce battle with trust….

And Paul…

I had left Paul, still heartbroken and crying, beside the cold sea. 

writing-923882_960_720

Donna’s Friday Morning Moment of Self-Awareness

I’ve got this gap between my front teeth. I hate it.

wp-1487364058431.jpg

I told you it was awful

A couple years ago, I was talking with some friends of mine about how much I hate seeing pictures of myself. Among the reasons for this aversion? That horrible, horrible gap.

wp-1487364053215.jpg

It’s not really that bad, but it sure feels like it. Fun with snapchat *awkward, nervous laughter*

 

See, when I was a kid, I had braces, and they fixed the gap, but then when my wisdom teeth came out, I guess my teeth spread apart some and now I have this gap between my teeth again. For a long time, I wouldn’t even smile with my lips open, because of that gap, but then several people told me I have a great smile so I have tried to get over it, but still, whenever I see one of these, pics, all I can see is that gap and…

That’s when one of my friends broke in on my story and said, “I’ve never noticed it.”

And I thought, “How many other people would never have even noticed this horrible, horrible flaw of mine if I’d just never told them about it?”

wp-1487363631427.jpg

No more fooling around. No filter. Totally natural expression.

I was reminded of this when the three brothers on my favorite podcast (My Brother, My Brother, and Me (MBMBaM)) did a TV show for Seeso TV.

The oldest brother, Justin, talks frequently about being overweight. He makes comments like “I’m living my life as an overweight man.” He talks about not being able to find clothes that look good – how his jeans are always cuffed because he can’t find jeans that are short enough for his chubby legs.

I do this too. As a podcaster, a writer, a blogger – non-visual mediums – I find that I will start stories much the same way when I want to talk about trying to find clothes that make me feel good about myself, or challenges finding a date, or the like.

But then…

I saw the first episode of the MBMBaM show.  Now, don’t get me wrong. Justin is overweight, he’s not one of those totally average people complaining about how fat they are. But his weight is not his most defining characteristic. It’s not the first thing I notice when I see him. In fact, the first thing I thought was “Why does he talk about his weight so much?” And this is coming from someone who’s overweight!

So, I don’t have a great insight here, really. Sometimes, like if I want to talk about having a hard time finding clothes, I’ve got to mention that I’m overweight, or you’re going to wonder “Why doesn’t she just go to the GAP?”

Which brings me back to the lesson I learned a few years ago about the gap in my teeth.

Maybe we should all spend a little less time pointing out our flaws to other people, because maybe we’re the only ones who noticed them in the first place.

Monday Morning Book Reviews

Good Morning!

I have two book reviews today- one good and one bad!  Both are non-fiction, which is something I have been getting into lately, and that’s a whole other discussion.  Stay tuned!

Book 1Tales of Remarkable Birds, Dominic Couzens

I picked up this book because of the images and I stayed because of the writing.  To be honest, birds kinda scare me.  They are all fluffy and colorful, but then they have those weird talon feet and sometimes they have the crazy eye and…ugh!!!  But this book not only had amazing photography, but the writing was some of the best non-fiction writing I have read in a while.  Each bird has it’s own little chapter and the facts about them are, yes, REMARKABLE, yet the writing is so entertaining I could not put it down. Every night I would look forward to my time reading this book and every morning I would beg my husband, “Please, let me share my bird facts, please!”

Book 2The Gratitude Diaries, Janice Kaplan

I’m sorry, but the whole idea of this book turned my stomach.  This premise of this exercise in torture is a rich, white woman decides to be grateful for her doctor husband, handsome, successful kids, privileged lifestyle and she meets up with movie stars such as Matt Damon and Daniel Craig, who are also grateful.  Wow.  And she writes a bit like a teenage girl also.  I picked up the book because I have been working on being more grateful myself and I wanted to read the experience of someone who focused solely on the subject for a year.   But what I got was a sticky-sweet companion who I was ready to smack by chapter three.  It didn’t bother me that she has a wonderful lifestyle, but nothing she did seemed difficult.  I wanted to hear from the mom whose child has been diagnosed with cancer or the homeless person or the teenager in a foster home.  This woman didn’t even really have a house or car repair!  And how does she still have friends?  She kept meeting her friends who actually had some difficulties in their lives and she advises them to be grateful instead of getting upset(Just ignore the fact that your marriage is in the toilet!) and getting a pretty new journal and write down how grateful you are you can eat lunch with her!

“Janice, honey, I’m happy for you, but could you just once drive your cheerful

attitude to an intensive care unit and find out how hard gratitude can really be?  Sure, you can finish your cappuccino with Matt Damon first.” 

 

In Defense of Garbage TV

I have a confession…red-rose-1347966141q6t

No, I can’t. It’s too horrible.

OK. Let me just get this out.

Recently… I started watching The Bachelor.

Whew. I got that off my chest. I feel a little better.

Now, this show is garbage. Purest garbage.

So why am I watching it?

Well… because a podcaster I like does a fancast for The Bachelor (called Rose Buddies) so I thought I’d give it a try. In other words, I’m watching the show as an excuse to listen to a podcast.

Still. It’s garbage. It’s fake, and awkward and really inappropriate in a lot of ways.

And I’m starting to find it therapeutic. It’s fun to flip off the TV every time the designated ‘villian’ is on the screen. It’s fun to protest when the bachelor gives her a rose week after week. It’s fun to bitch about why they don’t show more positive interactions between the contestants, or speculate about how much of what goes on is actually real and how much of it is producer manipulation. To speculate on who’s in the running to win and who’s just there to stir up ratings *cough corn cough*

I can’t actually scream “I hate you!” to idiots on facebook, but I can scream it at my TV. I can’t say, “OMG, you’re SOOOOOO STUPID,” to people in real life, but I can yell it at the bachelor.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s trash. It’s garbage. It’s sensationalist and ridiculous and more than a little sexist.

But one night a week I can forget about real life and real problems and that’s not a bad thing.

…I may have more to say on this topic later. 🙂