Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

We all love compliments, especially sincere compliments. They give us a lift, brighten our days, and make us feel appreciated. However, sometimes they’re also warning signs. At times, a compliment can be something of a bait and switch, especially if it seems to come out of nowhere. I’m not suggesting paranoia, because all of these compliments can be completely sincere, but they can also hide ulterior motives. Sometimes you need to be careful that you don’t let the warm fuzzy glow of appreciation lead you into the wrong situation. Here are a few words of praise that should encourage you to be a little on guard:

You’re my go-to girl/guy

Why this feels great: We all want to feel like we are trusted, competent, and valued. When someone, whether it is a friend, family member, co-worker, or boss identifies us as the person they can count on to get the job done, it gives us confidence. It makes us feel appreciated. It’s awesome. 

Why you should stay alert: There’s a decent chance that this compliment is going to be followed by “which is why I’m coming to you with _____.” Sometimes, this specific praise is meant to put us in a helpful frame of mind, before we are asked or told to take on a new task. In some situations, you may not have a choice about that new task, but if you do, you need to stop, take a breath, and think logically rather than emotionally.

You Got It BossOne of my former supervisors always called me the “go-to girl”, and it wasn’t always a bad thing. He was great about showing appreciation both privately and publicly, especially in front of the higher ups. However, anytime he opened a conversation with this compliment, I knew he was about to hit me with something work intensive, last minute, or both. My personal favorite was calling me ten minutes before the end of the day and asking if I could give a presentation the next morning. (I said “yes” immediately, and ended up working all night to prepare.) It took a long time for me to learn to stop and think before I let the glow of pride overcome my ability to think through what I was actually being asked to do.

You’re so good at ____.

Why this feels great: For starters, see above. Again, it’s affirmation, and it makes us feel good. Compliments based on our abilities and achievements are some of the most fulfilling, because we’re more likely to feel like we’ve earned them.

Why you should stay alert: Frequently, whatever the thing you’re good at is the thing you’re about to be asked to do. This is even more common with the popular variant “You’re so much better at ____ than I am.” This is another compliment that could also be a set up. 

ErrorMy friend Mike works in IT, and he’s always on alert when someone opens a conversation, or abruptly changes the subject, with “You know so much about computers”. He told me that as soon as he hears this sentence, he immediately starts trying to decide if he has the time and/or inclination to help the speaker with a problem, because 99% of the time they’re about to ask. I’m not suggesting that you should never say “yes” in a situation like this (I’m actually a big fan of being helpful), but again, you need to stop and make sure you’re making the right decision.

I know I can trust you

Why this feels great: Being trusted is really high praise. This compliment shows that people recognize and respect your integrity. No one wants to be seen as a gossip or breaker of confidences.

Why you should stay alert: This could be a sign you’re headed into an awkward position. The secret you’re going to hear might put you between two friends or loved ones, threaten your professional ethics, or give you a desire to intervene in a situation. I’m not saying that you should shut people down when they say this, but you need to be on alert and ready to cut the conversation off quickly if it starts to veer into uncomfortable territory. If you’ve ever thought, “I wish you hadn’t told me that”, you know exactly what I mean here.

secretI will never forget one of my friends following “I know I can trust you” with a confession that he was having an affair with a married woman. She was also a friend, and so was her husband. He wasn’t looking for my opinion (although he received it, and then some), but just wanted to tell me about the relationship. Asking me to keep that information to myself was completely unfair, and since then I’ve been much more careful about becoming a secret keeper.

You’re so easy-going.

Why this feels great: If you’re at all familiar with popular entertainment, you have seen the uptight, type-A stereotype. It’s presented as negative, frustrating, and zero fun. So, being identified as the opposite has an instant positive connotation. Being flexible and easy-going inherently makes other people’s lives easier, which is often a good thing. 

Why you should stay alert: However, I’m going to be blunt about this one. Sometimes people say this when what they mean is “I’m about to try and walk all over you.” I don’t mean that they’re doing it consciously, deliberately, or maliciously. However, it is alarmingly easy for someone’s subconscious view of you to shift from flexible to forgiving to doormat. 

Steam EarsA former friend was constantly late, frequently changed plans, and often wanted me to go places and do things she knew I wasn’t comfortable with. In her mind, flexibility is the highest virtue…in other people. I try to be easy-going, but believe me, I have my limits. After growing increasingly frustrated with her constant expectation that I would be fine in all circumstances, I tried talking to her several times, but the situation never improved. Ultimately, we drifted apart.

Let's Discuss

Have you been there?  Are there other compliments that belong on this list? Share your thoughts!

39 thoughts on “Worth Discussing: Dangerous Compliments

  1. Sheree says:

    I was always wary of any compliments at work.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Unfortunately, workplace compliments so often hide ulterior motives.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sheree says:

        Exactly!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

    I’ve always got, “you’re so much better than ___ and ___”

    Here’s the catch, it’s not people from the upper echelon of importance… rather, usually the rock bottom folk who show up and breathe…

    Or little comments that insinuate I’m dumb. Because they don’t pick up on sarcasm..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Those kinds of comparative compliments make me crazy.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

        I come here for positive support lol!!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Amanda Cade says:

        The blogging community is a great place for that. One of the many reasons I’m glad I got involved.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. David Yochim says:

    Spot on with your points. I believe I have experienced each one of those scenarios.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      It’s unfortunate that compliments are so often tied to someone wanting something from the receiver.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Cherryl says:

    Compliments are a great way to manipulate people if your intentions are sneaky or deceptive – especially if the recipient has insecurities or an inflated ego on particular things that you’re aware of – so you know what buttons to press. This is a great post Amanda – raising awareness of this – since people can be very easily seduced by a compliment – compliments should never change the way we think or behave, I think they should just give us a pleasant boost 😊

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I totally agree. I used to fall into that trap frequently, and it took a lot of practice to get into the habit of stopping to think through what was going on.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Cherryl says:

        I’m with you there, it’s great that we can get wise to it 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  5. fakeflamenco says:

    Thanks for pointing out the manipulative side of these compliments. Took me a long time to get wise to them. My relationships in my 20s taught me to seek my own approval first to stand firm and be able to say no to those compliment work invitations. -Rebecca

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I didn’t get wise until my 30s.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post Amanda.
    Nearly all of these have happened to me in the past. I am so dumb that I don’t realise that I have been manipulated until long after the event.

    Having said this
    Such experiences make me more appreciative of genuine comiments that people give without ulterior motives.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Absolutely. Getting a genuine compliment is one of the best feelings in the world!

      Like

      1. That is so true Amanda.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Carol Anne says:

    Your so honest! Sometimes that is a downfall! I am on guard when someone says that to me! Or, your so pretty! I dont much like that one either! depends whose saying it I guess!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. What a conundrum, Amanda. Was that a compliment just given to me, or, a set-up for some future manipulation ? My belief system tells me to accept without reservation, but be watchful about what happens next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I find that the context is key. For example, if I just made a cake and someone tells me that I’m good at baking, that’s one thing. If they say it out of the blue, there’s a good chance they’re about to ask me to spend a day in the kitchen. The timing of a compliment is a really good indicator of how alert you need to be.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. sunilmdabral says:

    How true. If someone tells me you are so good at this I always say you could also be if you try. 😋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Good response. I’ve tried “I can teach you” once or twice.

      Like

      1. sunilmdabral says:

        Yes. Me too but some people are very smart they never learn the things which they can outsource to others.😉

        Liked by 1 person

  10. kagould17 says:

    Wise words. I like it better when people either say or ask what they actually mean. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I also prefer being straightforward.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. So true, a coworker does this often, compliments that have an agenda!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      With certain people, I want to respond to any compliment with “What do you want?”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! 😀I wish I could too! They deserve some direct truth!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. sirhanz says:

    Lol that was great! My cringe compliment is when someone at work asks me to help them with a project. (Translation) I dont want to do it so I will pretend to be inept and because your a helpful guy you will do it for me.
    I have learned to tell them I would be happy to help but for this other thing I have to do.. wait! I have a great idea! Why dont you help me with my thing and then I can help you sooner! ….. heh.. they usualy just make an excuse and leave lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Yeah, some people have a strange definition of “help”.

      Like

      1. sirhanz says:

        Yup. But offer to put them to work and they disappear fairly quick.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. alexraphael says:

    A lot of wisdom in this post. Are you familiar with the fable about the crow and the fox?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Hadn’t thought about it until you reminded me. Great reference.

      Like

      1. alexraphael says:

        Yeah, everyone quotes the lion and the mouse and the tortoise and hare, but for me that’s the one that is most relevant today.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. ron877 says:

    Great observations. I have lots of problems trying to explain the real meanings of these phrases to my students of English as a foreign language. A recent combination of English teaching and cross-cultural awareness helped a bit, but it is still challenging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I can only imagine how difficult it would be to tackle subtext in a second language. My language studies never made it out of the classroom, so I haven’t had the immersion experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. The other side of compliments. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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