Essays on Competence

Maintain the Value of Compliments

Compliments are so valuable they should be used sparingly in order to remain valuable. Nothing was more disturbing to me than to be paired in a round of golf with an overly courteous individual who complimented my every shot—good, bad, and mediocre. He insulted my intelligence, as if I didn't know when I had made a good or bad shot.

Charles Pitts was an excellent golfer who complimented only "a golf shot." I can remember well on the ninth hole when I hit a ball with an eight iron—high over a tree—that landed reasonably close to the pin. He walked across the fairway, shook hands with me, and said, "That's a golf shot." He knew how to keep his compliments valuable.

If we overcompliment, we not only become a Pollyanna, we lose our authority to praise. Praise should be earned. It should be specific and come from someone who knows what he's complimenting. General Maxwell Taylor said that you can cheapen yourself if you are too quick to give compliments. Compliments ...

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