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Common Mistakes about Grattitude

by Gil Sanders

Some people seem to mistakenly think you needn’t show gratitude for a compliment unless they’re complimenting something that you had some control over (e.g., writing a good paper). But this is readily false: If It is an objective fact that I wrote a good paper, then you *should* recognize it as a good paper. It’d be irrational or false for you think otherwise. Why should I be grateful for what you ought to recognize? It seems evident, however, that if someone compliments your writing that you should be grateful and say “Thank you” rather than “I’m fully aware.” Gratitude then isn’t dependent on whether you had control or not. As long as as it’s about you in some way, they can compliment you. It could be a biological accident (beauty), it could be an extrinsic feature (clothing or hair-do), a natural gift (intelligence), or what have you. If someone compliments you for either, the morally right, non-conceited response is to say thank you, not to say “I’m fully aware” or “Why the hell are you complimenting me? I didn’t earn it.” Now if the compliment is fake and has some ulterior motive, then trolling or giving a sarcastic response is fine. Some situations provide exceptions, but this works as general rule. The most uncharitable way to interpret this rule is to say, “Am I supposed to think that your compliment is your gift to me? That I needed your approval to validate my worth so I need to say thanks?” I can’t believe I need to explain how ridiculous this response is. Imagine everyone acted this way about each other’s compliments. We’d all be ripping each other apart! This assumes that the person is giving the compliment because (a) they think you’re worthless without it and (b) because they’re desperate to hear “thank you.”No, it’s simple: most people compliment you because they appreciate something you did or something about you and they just wanted to express it to you. The reason you say thank you is to show appreciation back. Social dynamics are about being reciprocal. Even if the compliment is cheesy, common, or whatever, that rule still applies. I understand for girls it gets annoying. In situations where the guys are whistling at girls like thirsty dogs, or flattering just to get in her pants, there’s no reason to express appreciation for lustful, objectifying behavior. It should be condemned. But condemn it for those reasons, not for silly unjustified assumptions like (a-b) or because beauty is an accident.

14Ben Hetland and 13 others16 CommentsLikeComment

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