Social Question

longgone's avatar

How do you deal with people who fish for compliments out of insecurity?

Asked by longgone (19312points) January 6th, 2015

I have a few people in my life who will do this regularly: They strike up a conversation, and then, at some point, sprinkle in some negativity about themselves. Most recently, I had a teen try this with me. This is a girl who is not insecure in general, but very obviously was insecure about the topic at hand.

I called her out on it, gently, and we kept talking about the issue in a more honest way. I now wonder whether I was right to address her trying this. She was slightly embarrassed by me noticing, though I did tell her I thought it a very common thing.

What would you have done?

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16 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

I wish I knew more details.

I think it may have been the right thing to do. I think she learned something, as her embarrassment showed. Yeah, we all learn at some point that fishing for compliments is not cool.

So, anyway, do these pants make my butt look big?

longgone's avatar

I can’t disclose the real details, but I will give you a hypothetical which is very similar:

The kid is fifteen and very good at dancing. Let’s call her A. She has always been in a bit of a competition with her sister (B), who, as of yet, is not a dancer. In the situation, we were talking about B taking up dance lessons. A’s dancing is something she is often praised for. A large part of her day is spent practising.

B has a natural talent, but is light years away from A, at this point. A started the conversation by telling me how proud she is of her sister, then went on to say, “She’s better than me already, of course!”

Dutchess_III's avatar

Ah. Well, that’s kind of a hard one. To respond, you’re almost forced to speak negatively about her sister. :( Did you ask her why she thought that?

Overall, it sounds like you handled it well.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I wouldn’t have bought into any ‘tell me how good I am’ stuff. I’d either ignore the comment and progress the conversation in a different direction or say something ‘How excellent’. I don’t think you handled the situation incorrectly. You were there so you are aware of the tone etc.

Some additional ideas for consideration might be that some people, and especially women, feel uncomfortable with self-praise and that it’s expected and better to be self-depreciating. They should be modest and not ‘blow their own trumpet’. Of course in doing this, they can come across as being falsely modest.

Also, while you may see this young woman as a talented and accomplished, you know this is an area of insecurity for her. She may not view her own accomplishments as highly as others do and internally, perhaps she doesn’t believe she is that good. So she may feel the need for external confirmation that she is a good dancer.

There is also a competition between the two sisters. Perhaps she has her sister on a pedestal and internally believes her sister is going to be better than she is, because to her mind, her sister is better at everything else they both do. I always saw my older sister as prettier and cleverer than I am. It’s not true, but to my mind in my youth I believed that. Perhaps dancing is the one thing she has of her own, that she is good at and sets her apart from her sister? So she’s feeling very insecure about her sister now taking up dance.

Here2_4's avatar

I compliment them right up into a 401K. Now that is security!

stanleybmanly's avatar

What harm is there in giving them what they want?

ibstubro's avatar

I think you handled it perfectly.
As a teen, she should be called out on it in order to make her more honest about it.
If it was an adult, I would be more blunt. “Better in what ways?”

I have low toleration for that crap in adults, and I’d sooner run them off than have to deal with it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@stanleybmanly Because it can encourage annoying, drama queen behavior. Plus, in this situation, it would have necessitated putting her sister down in a way.

longgone's avatar

Thank you for your input!

@Earthbound_Misfit Very good analysis, you nailed it!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yabutt she still handled it fine.

ibstubro's avatar

“I think you she handled it perfectly.” @Dutchess_III.

I hope this isn’t Fluther infighting cause I can’t keep up with that. No? Good!

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

If people are arguing here, I have no understanding why. The OP did not ask ‘Did I handle this correctly?’ Rather she asked “How would YOU deal with people…”. That was the answer I gave. Why would you think people are arguing @ibstubro?

Dutchess_III's avatar

My point was I agree with @Earthbound_Misfit assessment too, but @longgone handled it well also. There is enough infighting here as it is. Lord knows you don’t need to imagine some where there is none.

ibstubro's avatar

Good enough, @Dutchess_III.

As I said, I weary at the thought of keeping track.

Qav's avatar

I see nothing wrong with what you did. Honesty always works things out for the best, and she will have learned from your honesty.

For myself, I have a few people around who will do that. Depending upon the person, sometimes, I will just appease them, but if it is constant or if they are overbearing, I just go away.

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