Sincerity or Intention? Which Matters?

As I scan the daily Facebook posts and WordPress blog articles, I see the usual thousand or so posts about kindness and being nice to others.  Of course we should always be kind to others and go out of our way to encourage them.

My question is how do people feel about whether or not a compliment or encouragement is sincere or merely said out of good intention.  When someone approaches you and tells you how nice you look or that your new hairstyle looks great – does it matter whether they truly believe what they say or are just trying to be nice?  Does the compliment still have the same effect?

Personally, it was always a pet peeve of mine when I would enter a store and the cashier/greeter would say “Hello, how are you today?” and I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that they did not care whatsoever how I was that day.  I understand the purpose of these greetings is to make you feel welcome.  The problem is that to me, it is insincere so why say it at all?  Why not just smile?  Why the need to add a useless query?  Why feign interest in someone’s life when you have no interest at all?

I choose to participate in this insincere exchange of pleasantries – whenever someone says hello to me and asks how I am, I return with the expected, “Fine, thanks and how are you?”  Then I move on when it is clear it was meant only as a greeting as they do not respond to my query.  What I don’t do is give insincere compliments.  I like to make people feel good so I will make positive comments to them but it isn’t always a compliment.  I have found that often, you don’t have to compliment someone to make them feel good – you merely have to engage them in an actual conversation instead of just the passing ‘how are you?’

People will talk about anything, they like to be heard and to feel as if someone wants to listen.  Even a few minutes of a conversation about anything often lifts someones spirits.  I talk to anyone who wants to chat.

For me, I don’t like compliments that I feel someone gives insincerely.  Usually such compliments are obvious.  Something about it just irks me even when it is given with good intentions.  I would prefer someone comment on something to start even a brief chat as that is a compliment in itself – it says “I care what you have to say”

What about everyone else?  Do you give insincere compliments due to good intentions?  How do you feel about insincere compliments?


11 thoughts on “Sincerity or Intention? Which Matters?

  1. I completely agree with you. And I have this little game I sometimes play when people ask me the “How are you today” question. I start telling them how I feel and I usually don’t stop talking. Just checking how they react. It’s fun, you know. Or when someone asks “And how are we today?” (which I hate!!!) I usually look at that person and say “Well I don’t know…” and then just stare at them until they say something or I say “I feel great but I am not sure about you” and if they ask me why, I tell them “because I have no clue how you are today”…
    I think you should only make a compliment if you really mean it. And if you don’t like the new hairstyle or the new dress then don’t mention it. Just find something you like and say something about that. Just be honest.

    • Lol! You could also make up crazy things to answer with I suppose – like, ‘Well, I’m doing much better today, finally got a full night’s sleep, the aliens left me alone last night.”
      Speaking of sleep – that’s my other pet peeve is when someone tells me “You look tired.” And I have to wonder, is that an insult? Is it an invitation for me to discuss my sleep issues with them? Should I respond with “Well it’s just because you’re so boring” I just really fail to see the purpose of the ‘you look tired.’ people use so frequently.

  2. I much prefer to engage the person,even a stranger, when I get the good intention-ed how are you today question, it doesn’t irk me because politeness counts in my world, I generally respond with going great and i hope your’s is as well and a smile, I don’t know even insincere comments can brighten a day, I always try to give a sincere response to brighten their day.

    • I get that the greeting is just that, a polite way to greet someone, it’s just when the person doesn’t even wait for my response that irks me. I would prefer they just smile or say welcome or anything except pretend interest. But in general, I do find politeness is better than no acknowledgment at all.

  3. The one that I hate though it’s a little off topic, is when someone says smile, or you look so much better when you smile. It’s so irritating to me that usually I will respond with, I always smile when I see someone I’m happy to see. A little rude I know, but…

    • Me too, that one is very irritating. Yet another thing people say that I just don’t get – why tell me to smile? Why not say something to make me smile if it bothers you so much? Or hey, if I look so depressed – ask what’s wrong, if you actually care that is.

  4. I do tend to say, “fine, thanks, and how are you?” when asked the routine how-are-you by people I don’t honestly need to have a social encounter with, like store clerks or the guy making sandwiches at Jersey Giant. But that also usually shakes them out of the routine and we talk to one another like people and that’s good for everyone involved.

    With people who’re fishing for compliments … well, if I feel like the person is just looking for encouragement for getting something done — and I don’t want to undersell what an accomplishment it is to get something done — I will talk about being glad they were able to accomplish it, which is pretty reliably true regardless of what I think about the thing. And it’s usually satisfying, too, if all they are looking for is reassurance.

    If someone wants a serious appraisal of something they’ve done, then, I do go at it as professionally as I can, and while I’ll try to be warm about it I’ll be as honest as I’m able.

  5. In business you have to be pleasant whether you want to or not. Back when I was in a call center, I found that having a smile in my voice and being pleasant made for happier customers.

    Also in today’s much ruder society a little pleasantness goes a long way. It isn’t so much insincere as it is just being polite. I find listening to my middle daughter and her friends cussing each other out constantly annoying. I mean calling each other by cuss words, really? As a writer it makes me cringe at how they do this.

    Now that I am living in Canada I have seen the difference in day to day politeness and how you can be polite and rude at the same time, but I still think we need a lot more pleasantries in day to day life. Something to make us smile.

  6. I don’t view it as insincerity – it’s really just being polite and finding a, normally, inoffensive way to greet someone. So I generally just take the good intent at face value & not worry about it. That bothers me less, to be honest, than people you know that don’t acknowledge you at all when you pass by each other & you say ‘hi’.

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