Are all compliments equal?

I was joking with someone recently that my father appreciated me, but never complimented me. Then, I mentioned it was a problem many people have, including my friend.

“I don’t. I say ‘thank you’ all the time,” my friend quickly replied.

And he does. Most of us do. But a compliment is different. “Thank you” is a bit empty. In some cases, we say those two words, but really mean, “it took forever, that wasn’t the way I would have done it, but you did finally get it done.”

Praise takes effort to exhibit appreciation of someone else’s effort. It’s about making note of something specific that improves our lives. But there’s another side of the coin. It’s one that, in my opinion is worse than no compliment at all – the tongue-in-cheek compliment.

“I can’t stand this choice, but I really like this option, so great.”

“She’s got such a pretty face… but those ears!”

“He’s fairly smart, for a (pick the religion, race, sex, sexual preference different from that of the speaker).”

“You’re not a bad writer, but I can’t stand your subject matter!”

Why do I bring it up here, on the SCWW blog? Aren’t my posts usually aimed at letting members know about the conference, grammar peeves and the financial bottom line of SCWW? Well, yes, but I write about those things because those are what I know and it’s my way of helping writers put their best feet forward. And that’s what this is about, too.

As a non-profit writing organization, SCWW was started for writers to help writers. The Board members don’t get paid and volunteer their time and efforts for the betterment of that goal. Think of it the way you would the ASPCA, the Salvation Army, AARP or even your church or other religious refuge. The people who make decisions for the organization are doing it for the benefit of the members. And it’s only as strong as its weakest member.

Genuine, heartfelt statements of appreciation concerning the organization and the opportunities it offers bolster the reputation of you as a writer and the organization within the writing community. Agents, editors, best-selling authors all have their eyes on social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). And, by the same token, slights about the organization, specific members of the group or guest speakers and faculty involved in SCWW events tarnishes not only the image of SCWW, but yours, too.

Want proof? Read the Twitter, blog and Facebook posts of some of the leading agents, editors and authors. I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t see a post by one some of the most prominent in the industry, many former or current SCWW faculty, concerning writers shooting themselves in the feet with trite comments. And, wonderfully, they also post when writers do some quite clever and thoughtful things, too.

I’m certainly not demanding praise for SCWW. But I do challenge us all to think before we type.

Interested in learning how to make the most out of your words and social media? Be sure to register for the 2011 conference and consider the sessions by best-selling author M.J. Rose (our keynote) and Georgia Center for the Book Director Bill Starr.

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