Friday, January 11, 2008

They Couldn't Have Done Better

By coincidence, two different male colleagues emailed me about two unrelated issues today. Both commented on something I had written and both made the exact same comment that both intended to be a compliment:

I couldn't have done it any better.

Thanks, guys! Is that the ultimate compliment, or what?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

oh good golly!

lost academic said...

I often feel the same way you do about such a comment, but at the same time, I have to realize that every so often (very rarely) I know I've said a similar thing. And I realize why I say that rather than something else--what I really mean is usually something along the lines of, I have never seen it done better, or I can't imagine anyone else doing it better, or no one could do any better, but all of those statements just seem over the top and patently false. I guess I see the note of self deprecation there as more likely than the tone of patronizing camaraderie. But you know the guys best (or at all) so you're certainly a better judge.

Jackie M. said...

They're so funny when they don't mean to be funny.

Ms.PhD said...

Such a range of possible interpretations.

"I'm really glad you did this so I didn't have to!"

is way at the top of the academician translation.

But yes, it's a compliment. Unless you're offended that there's an undercurrent of surprise implied there. Like they still have no idea how good you are.

Unbalanced Reaction said...

Frameable. :)

Anonymous said...

Why not point out to these guys that this 'compliment' is not so complimentary?

bsci said...

it's like my favorite accidental (or intentional) insult:
"The importance of this work cannot be underestimated."

Anonymous said...

I really don't see a problem with their remark. Provided of course that you hold them in (somewhat)high esteem. If someone you think is really good could states that they couldn't have done better - then take it as a compliment. If you think they're total loosers that downgrades it a bit - but if they are, why care about what they think anyway?

Mr. B. said...

In the end, of course, you have to use your own good judgment on these matters...

But I have always believed that it is important to think about the motives of the people involved. It is better to have folks say this stuff actually be your supporters (than to have them stab you in the back when they get the chance).

Best,

Bonzo

GDad said...

Possible reply:

"Thanks so much. Please advise when you find some of my work that you *could* do better."

rJ said...

Are they senior to you? I.e. 10 years older/a former mentor?

Frankly, its a "compliment" i could make only tongue in cheek - e.g. if I'd just had my house painted or car repaired or something like that - i.e. something I have no expertise in.

Old Phat Stu said...

Methinks you are being overly sensitive. Learn to accept compliments gracefully. Not everyone is good at formulating them perfectly, least of all me ;-)

You're doing a good job and your blog is interesting; so live with it.

Female Science Professor said...

Thanks for the nice comments, but are you inferring that I am 'overly sensitive' just because I commented on the incident? Perhaps I should have used the bemused font. Believe me, I do live with 'it'.

tg said...

You post in such a negative manner. You received a compliment from male faculty members in the physical sciences. It's unlikely they thought of the negative connotation this phrase rarely implies. Most people would take this as a generous compliment and not think twice.

If you are looking for something, chances are you will find it.

You comment that you "live with it" seems to suggest that you are not fully appreciating what many of your commenters are pointing out.

Female Science Professor said...

I fail to see what was so negative about my post. I was mostly amused, with perhaps a hint of exasperation.

And w.r.t. comments, mostly I have a pretty thick skin about boring comments that give me profound advice like 'get over it' or 'live with it', you are probably right that I don't fully appreciate what some commenters are pointing out. I probably have many unresolved issues.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, of all the shit directed at you that you've cataloged here, I think this disturbs me the most. I think I'd rather deal with the outright hostile crank than this "soft bigotry of low expectations".

Alex said...

I think your bemused take on it spot on. On the bright side, you can also take it as a sign of progress. Gloria Steinem mentioned that early in her career as a writer one compliment male editors would bestow upon her is that she wrote like a man. I hope you haven't heard that one lately (ever?).

Anonymous said...

Of course that remark is (faintly) condescending. The simple litmus test is this: would they have bestowed a similar compliment upon a male peer? Chances are, they wouldn't.

Jackie M. said...

Amusingly, a very good (male) friend of mine--a friends who has been repeatedly sending me links to your blog, no less--used that exact same compliment on me a few days after reading this post. But I'm afraid I was too cowardly to link back here.

ElijahAO said...

What about the possibility that, generally speaking, Men consider that to be a genuine compliment? I actually just spoke of this with some of my co-workers, and they agree. Sometimes there simply are differences between how Men and Women think.

One side note is that people qualified whether it was coming from an incompetent person. Of course we can do better than the incompetent person.

Even so, the incompetent person may still intend it to be a complement.