rant: tell your friends how cool they are
James Colley is all for sharing the love (along with a taunt or two).
This has become one of my many pathological obsessions. Too often, I would find myself in a conversation about a mutual friend, all parties involved raving about how much we adored them – but then we’d keep that information to ourselves. It was as if we were third-graders worried about admitting we like-like someone. Thankfully, these days I’ve done away with that worry. Partly for sad reasons – I’ve lost too many to hold it in – but let’s not dwell on that, because the happy reasons outweigh the sad.
The first is simple: people love receiving compliments. Even those of us who shrink our shoulders and try to turn the attention away the second any praise is uttered actually love to hear that we’re great. The other day, a friend told me that one of her prevailing friendship principles is ‘I like people who like me’. I agree with this entirely. It seems vain at the outset, and maybe it’s still a bit vain after deeper examination, but who cares? You want friends who don’t like you? Booey for you. Hope you enjoy the view from up on the cross.
But the reverse is also true! It’s enjoyable to give someone a compliment. It makes you feel good to make someone’s day. There’s also a sweet pullback-and-reveal to it that forms a kind of reverse prank. “We were talking about you behind your back,” it begins, only to be followed by “…and we agreed that you’re a deadset legend.” If, like me, you can only really express niceness when it’s wrapped up in meanness, like a psychological beef Wellington, this is a perfect system.
Telling your pals how you feel also guards against the nature of our worst demons. Why do we only say lovely things about people when they aren’t around to hear them? Why are we so awkward about admitting that we care? I think a lot about the Ancient Greek words for love, which range in meaning from ‘sexual passion’ to ‘hospitality’. Each is a distinct and undeniable form of affection you will experience across your life – except perhaps sexual passion, in your case. (Sorry, couldn’t resist. But you’re such a forgiving person that I’m sure it’s fine.)
The point is that we – and often this is particularly true of the male ‘we’ – are terrible at expressing genuine affection when eye-to-eye with another person. It’s why our deepest conversations tend to occur when we’re driving or sitting at a bar. We need something else to look at to make it feel a little less real. Less intense. That’s fine if it works, but just because that’s what’s needed to extract the sentiment doesn’t mean it’s where it should die. You take that fragile, kind thought and you place it in a box the way you would a baby bird that bonked its head right into your window. You nurture it, and when it’s strong enough, you release it and let it flourish.
It would be wrong of me not to mention the big-picture stuff, while we’re here. Let’s face it: you don’t know what someone else is going through, and what a little reminder that they matter – that you think of them fondly – could mean. We’re living in a bad old world, and adding a bit of joy and kindness to it costs nothing. Also, maybe it will encourage your friends to talk about what a delight you’ve become, and one day share it with you. Wouldn’t that be a lovely change? Usually they’re just constantly shit-talking about you. Sorry, I did it again. Beef Wellington.
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