Compliments via comparisons are too common. If you are a leader you have likely received them and given them.
“My son is learning so much more in your class this year than he did last year.”
“It is great to finally have someone who executes well in this role.”
“For the first time in a long time, we have someone who…”
“I am thankful for (name of last person), but I really love how you …”
“You are my favorite preacher ever …”
Sound familiar? For some reason we are prone to compliment by comparing instead of simply complimenting. We are not the only ones. The apostle Paul told Christians living in Corinth that their constant comparing of preachers was an indication of their immaturity not their growth. If someone told Paul, “You are my favorite preacher. I grow so much more when you teach than when Apollos does,” Paul would have said, “You are not growing. You are still very immature.” It is essentially what he wrote:
You are still worldly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not worldly and behaving like mere humans? For whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not acting like mere humans? [I Corinthians 3:3-4]
Here are three practical reasons to stop complimenting by comparing:
1. Complimenting by comparing feels more like a complaint than a compliment.
If you compliment a staff member by comparing that person to the predecessor, the comment feels more like a complaint about the predecessor than a real compliment about the staff member. The person does not walk away feeling encouraged as much as they walk away thinking you don’t like the other person that much.
2. Complimenting by comparing puts the person in an awkward position.
It is awkward because the person receiving the compliment via comparison does not know what to say exactly. If they say “thank you,” does it come off like they are agreeing with your complaint? If they don’t say “thank you,” are they being ungrateful? It is hard to know how to respond.
3. Comparison-driven compliments are really more about you.
Comparison-driven compliments, according to the apostle Paul, are merely indications of immaturity. Comparison-driven compliments reveal that there is unresolved bitterness or frustration in you towards another person. So instead of complimenting you are really confessing.
Compliment. Be liberal with encouragement. But work hard to offer compliments without comparisons. They are more effective and an indication of your maturing.
Instead of “my son is learning so much more in your class this year than he did last year,” go with “thank you so much for all you are teaching my son this year.”
Instead of “it is great to finally have someone who executes well in this role,” go with, “I love how well you are executing.”
Instead of “for the first time in a long time, we have someone who…” go with, “I really appreciate how well you …”
Instead of “you are my favorite preacher ever,” go with “Here is what the Lord has taught me through your teaching.”