Thursday, June 12th, 2008

The Weight of Compliments

Yesterday, I was having tea with a dear friend at my favorite tea cafe, Samovar. We both were expounding on all we love about the training we are both immersed in at the moment, a year-long in depth study of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) at a stellar school, NLP Marin. (She's actually several steps along from me, in her post-Masters training and I am only about half-way through.)

NLP is many things: it is the study of the structure of how human beings create meaning and thus, how lasting change (where you don't have to remember to be different!) can occur. It is (at least at this school), a deeply respectful study of how human beings are wired, from neurological, bio-physiological and emotional perspectives. It has offered me a way, in working with clients, to get at areas I've never been able to get at, often in minutes or hours, instead of weeks and months – and in the most elegant, respectful and heart-centered way…

My friend said something quite interesting. She told me how, for her, sometimes generalized compliments are a weighty thing to bear.

She is not shy about hearing things about herself, good or bad, despite what that might sound like, at first glance.

For example, if someone says, "You are so nice!" or "You always know exactly the right thing to say!" it actually can land as a big weighted responsibility rather than the sweet compliment it was meant as. (I am nice? I ALWAYS know EXACTLY the right thing to say? What about when I am not, or when I dont'?) All of a sudden, you can feel labeled by the compliment, as though from here to eternity you've got to uphold "NICE" or "ALWAYS KNOWING EXACTLY THE RIGHT THING TO SAY."

What happens when you are not nice? When what you can offer up is not nice, but a howl or a cry; when the truth of the moment is that you are confused or ugly? All of a sudden, your truth or expression of the moment seems to be some kind of going back on a promise, albeit a promise that was put upon you, rather than declared by you.

Please do not misunderstand me; I am all for compliments and acknowledgments! In many ways, my relationships with others and myself are built from the sweet stuffs! But there's a further refinement offered here, by my wise, wise friend: to be specific about what has moved you about someone and to say it specifically about the here and now, and specifically about how it affected you, rather than in general terms about the person in the abstract forever.

How much more of a true gift is something like, "What you just said was so nice, and made me feel OK to vulnerable with you." or "That struck me as the absolute perfect thing you could have said. I just saw that in a completely new light." How much more generous to speak the sweetness or profoundness of the moment, but leave out indications of now-and-forever, always, and from-here-on-out.

Which offers a clean, open space for compliments to be exchanged, whilst fostering the generous stance that we can be changing beings, different from one moment to the next; freedom to be and speak the moment – profound and wise at one moment, mundane and bitchy the next; not weighted down by the heavy monikers of generalized proclamations, but buoyed up by the invitation to over and over, always anew, express what IS.

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Posted by LiYana at 3:05 pm  Comments Off on The Weight of Compliments

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