I’m feeling helpful. I just looked at the survey again. I have a few comments about your questions:
How likely will you accept this compliment?
I have no idea what this means. The ‘compliment’ has been given, if it is a compliment, and I can’t very well not accept it. I could acknowledge that it has been made, or not. But I’m unlikely to turn around and argue that my new googah is not pretty, fashionable, or whatever. So, in almost all situations I would just “accept” the comment.
How appropriate is this compliment?
This seems like a pretty good question to ask.
How polite is this compliment?
It’s a compliment. No bad language. No criticism. I’m a bit confused by this question too.
Let me give you some responses to the situations described that are not limited by your questions:
1. Tonight, you work in a lounge bar as usual and have a conversation with a regular customer. You put on the necklace just bought last night. He/she comes to notice and says, “Hey, that’s a really pretty necklace you’re wearing! Quite suitable for you!”
No idea. I have never in my life worn a necklace or any other form of personal jewellery. I simply cannot envisage ever being in this situation. Putting myself in the place of the customer, and imagining myself talking to the waitress, I feel that I would think about our relationship before saying such a thing. In some cases it would be very appropriate, in others she would feel threatened. You need to define the situation more clearly before asking the question.
2. You are managing a convenient store. One of your staff, who has been working with you for almost two years, finds you are wearing a new jacket. He/she says, “Wow! Your jacket is quite beautiful! The outfit suits you a lot!”
Again, it depends on the relationship. If the employee is someone who is really into fashion then it may be a good topic of conversation, and I would know this due to our two years of previous interaction. On the other hand, it could be a sexual advance or an attempt to kiss the boss’s butt. It all depends on who the person is and what your previous interactions have been.
3. Today is the first day of this semester. You are listening to music on the latest I-Pod. While walking into the classroom, a new classmate of yours says, “Hey, your I-Pod is so pretty and fashionable! I wish I also had one like that.”
Can’t hear my new classmate. I’m listening to music. But seriously, I hear comments like this all the time and don’t view them as personal compliments. They’re just expressions of interest in my cool stuff, not in me. Also, I don’t care about what’s fashionable. I only care whether it works.
4. Many relatives come to your house for New Years’ Eve Party tonight. You dress up and put on the new hat that you just bought. When you walk into the living room, your uncle/aunt who you have rarely seen before says, “Wow! Beautiful! That hat! You certainly have a good sense in choosing hat!”
It’s usually inappropriate to wear a hat indoors. Complimenting someone on doing so would mark you out as worthy of derision. If we modify the question so that it’s a general comment on your fashion sense then I guess it’s not a bad one to ask. My guess would be that anyone in any culture would consider it perfectly normal for distant relatives to say stuff like this.
5. You just bought a car and spent a great amount of time upgrading the latest equipment. While parking in front of a building, a professor, who you know well, passes by and says, “Wow! Fantastic! That car! You have a pretty good appreciation of cars!”
I would feel uncomfortable that he’s complimenting my taste instead of commenting on the car. If he was to compliment me on the quality of the work that I had done personally, rather than on what I have bought, ten that would be different.
6. The professor had randomly separated your class into groups for projects. You are discussing an assignment with a group of members that you do not know well. One of your group members sees your bag and says, “Hey, I’m impressed by your fantastic bag! I like it!”
I would be utterly amazed if anyone ever said anything like that. But then I walk around with a perfectly normal backpack. I guess things would be different if there was something special about it, but if this is the case then you need to make that clear. I should warn you that as a middle-aged man I can’t easily imagine being a university student with an LV bag.
7. Being a waiter/waitress in a restaurant, you are about to serve the first appetizer to a new customer. When he/she sees the watch you are wearing today, he/she says, “Hey, I love the beautiful watch you’re wearing now! You have a good taste in choosing the style!”
Well, I don’t wear a watch so I have to think harder about this. It seems to me that this sort of comment would either be a sexual advance, or else a completely idiotic thing to say. Probably both. It also depends on the watch, of course. A diamond-encrusted Rolex is probably worthy of comment, and I would be interested to know why someone wearing such a thing would be serving in a restaurant.
Also, in my experience, Taiwanese restaurants rarely manage to deliver the appetizer ahead of the main course so I imagine that the conversation would be more likely to revolve around food than personal adornments.
8. You have been trying very hard to save up for a new cell phone in the past three months. Finally you got it yesterday. When your close friend sees it, he/she says, “Hey, I really like your cell phone! It’s fabulous! I hope I could have one as well.”
As an adult, I possess two things that make it hard to envisage this situation. One is a regular income, and the other is a credit card. When I decided to buy a new phone recently I just went into the store and bought the one I wanted. The idea of saving up to buy a phone is silly. I mention this to illustrate that you’re assuming an awful lot about the people taking the survey.
I guess you’re trying to describe a situation in which the phone is important and your question is about people recognising the effort/cost involved in buying it. It’s just not going to happen. Sorry. People put a lot of emotional value on their gadgets, but few of us “try very hard” for three months to buy one.
9. You are a flute teacher. Tonight, you have a performance at an auditorium and you use your brand new flute for it. After the great performance, a student who you just taught for one week comes up and says, “Wow! That’s a very wonderful flute you’re playing! I wish I could have one just like yours.”
It all depends on the student’s attitude displayed in class. If he/she is really into the hobby and is just appreciative of a quality instrument then I would encourage him. But then it’s not a compliment, it’s a discussion about something we both are interested in. If, on the other hand, he’s a lazy student who thinks he can be a good musician by buying a good instrument then he needs to be slapped down for his idiotic comment. Then again, he could be just butt-kissing.
10. You are a tutor. For the class purpose, you bring your laptop with you today. When seeing your laptop, one of your students who you have been teaching for almost two years says, “Hey, it’s a pretty cool laptop that you have! I love it!”
Haven’t we had this one already? Someone commenting on stuff instead of the topic at hand. Depends on the relationship. I spend hours talking about gear with one of my students, another is just looking for excuses to avoid doing any work.
11. After your house party, a close friend of yours stays and helps clean up the dishes. While putting away the dishes, he/she notices the vase in the living room and says, “Hey, the pattern of your vase is quite beautiful! It goes well with your home style!”
My close friend never noticed this before, not even at the party? OK. Yes, it’s nice isn’t it? I bought it in B&Q. Blah blah.
12. You are a professor. After teaching the last class for today, you are going to ride your bike back to the dormitory. At that time, a new transfer student in your class sees your bike and he/she says, “Wow! Beautiful! That bike! I like it a lot!”
Sincere? Butt-kissing? I can usually tell the difference. It matters.
There. Hope this helps. I’m sure others will add their thoughts.