I was having a chat with my boss the other day. As a prelude to telling me that I have to work on being less impatient with people, he started by telling me that I was the brightest person in the office and was often three steps ahead of everyone else. If he expected me to be pleased or flattered, he was in for a disappointment - I agreed readily.
"You already knew it, did you?", he asked.
"Of course. I'm not sure if it is three steps or one step, but I do know that I often have to wait a long time for people to catch up", I replied.
He laughed. "I really like that about you", he said. "you are so honest. Anyone else would have pretended they had no idea what I was taking about."
I shrugged. "Frankly, I see no reason why anyone should do that. Just doesn't make sense, specially when the other person knows it is only false modesty."
And yet, when I think about it, I realise that when you compliment a person, the reaction you are most likely to get is one of surprise.
Tell a person she is looking nice, and she is almost sure to reply, "This dress? But it is an old dress."
Most people would then veer off in the indicated direction, "You haven't worn it for a long time have you? Which is why I thought it was new", and the fact that the person is looking nice gets lost.
I, however, refuse to take the hint. "I didn't say I liked your dress. I said that you are looking good today. Maybe it is the dress, maybe not, but you are looking nice." Most people have no idea how to react to that!
Instead of going through all that charade, how much better it would be if the person receiving the compliment smiles and says, "thank you." You always know it when you are looking good, why not just accept the compliment, instead of insulting the intellegence of the other person by implying they are making a mistake in complimenting you?
Ditto with other things.
After an exam, when you ask someone how they have done, they are sure to reply, "Really badly. I'll be lucky if I pass."
When the results come out, it's a different story.
Me - "Why are you looking so glum?"
He - "Got only a C+ in the paper."
Me - "You got a C+ did you? Shouldn't you be rejoicing? After all, you expected to flunk."
He - "What nonsense! I was expecting at least a B."
I wonder if this is a universal trait, or one peculiar to us Indians.