“ why not have a simple chat on what it means to repeatedly hear a compliment that makes you uncomfortable.”

As I mentioned above, I don’t think this is the time for that. I grew up with way more privilege than he did, so of course I went further in my education. But at the beginning of a friendship, there is no way to say that. Try it.

But do you need to say that? Can't you just say, thanks but I feel uncomfortable with that compliment? Or, if you don't want to get into it, just take the compliment? What am I not getting!??!?!? Is the idea as Janet said - to sort of deprecate yourself so that you and he feel more on par? I'm genuinely trying to understand this

Toronto, no self-deprecation is involved.

Ok. Well I'll content myself with not understanding.

I sort of hesitate to wade in here as I'm not sure I'm understanding either, but couldn't you say something similar to what you said in your penultimate post -- perhaps a version that doesn't draw a direct comparison? "I grew up [in a neighborhood with good public schools/in a family that was financially able to fund my college studies/whatever specifics apply], so of course I went further in my education than many others who might not have had those advantages. I don't think that necessarily makes me "smarter" than others who've completed less education though." I would absolutely say something like that to someone I didn't yet know very well. But, that doesn't really convey your discomfort at hearing his "compliment." I think one of the things I'm confused about in this discussion is whose discomfort you're trying to minimize -- his or yours.

Sarah, the issue with saying something like that is that he didn’t grow up with any of that. Pointing it out to explain the difference in education only highlights the unfairness in the difference in how we grew up. If the relationship continues, we will have to tackle that eventually, but not now. We are talking about a considerable disparity.

A friend who has a higher iq than mine and went to math camp every summer growing up tells me I’m over 2 deviations from the norm, in the top couple percent. If I were to introduce myself or this topic with that, some people might find it off-putting. But now that you know know me, you might just make eyes and move on. That’s the point I’m hoping to get to with him, where we can talk about the advantages I’ve had, relative to him, and he can put that in the context of everything else he knows about me.

Wishing you well in figuring this out.

Fashintern, I think he genuinely means it as a compliment. I think this guy is just thinking "Wow - she's smart and attractive" and wants to let you know his admiration.

Best of luck with this relationship. Smart comes in lots of forms, street smarts are just as valuable as book smarts. Find something that impresses you about him to compliment him on. I find a sense of fun, a generous nature and honesty attractive!

FI, I and I think others too, understand the concept of privilege. I know I am extremely privileged in comparison to others - I was extremely lucky to be raised in an area that enabled me to know a wide spectrum of people both way up and way down the privilege ladder (Toronto people, I'm not exaggerating ... Kids from both the Bridle Path and Flemington Park were in my social circle). So I get that you have extreme privilege in education here. I still don't get why that means you can't take a compliment sincerely given. To me, that would actually be rude - and, if I may say, an expression of the very privilege I'm concerned about - since I would basically be saying (to me), you're so underprivileged you can't even afford to give me a compliment! That's just my take though - and I fully acknowledge I still may be missing something entirely. I'll shut up now. I just felt like I needed to clarify, what you think I'm not understanding, is not the part that I'm not understanding.

Well said, Helena. You are kind and gracious to take the time to respond this way.

FashIntern, it sounds from your latest post that your greater concern here is with his comfort. In that case, I wouldn’t say anything at all at this point. If a kind, direct but not pointed/personal discussion of a particular issue can’t be done without stinging him (or possibly can’t be done in a way you can be sure he will understand?), then I think there’s even less hope for finding a joke/meme that could accomplish that. Jokes are harder imo!

I am not normally one to suggest that a woman swallow her discomfort to spare a man’s but you’ve made the case that the other intersecting identities here are pretty powerful. Perhaps powerful enough that simply noting to yourself where his comments may be coming from and tabling the discussion for a later date may be the best way forward.

ETA: and I also see a connection here to the point Helena is making about privilege. Isn’t deciding that a person can’t handle or wouldn’t understand a discussion of a certain topic because they don’t have the background to do so itself an expression of privilege? There are different ways to have that discussion of course. I don’t see that a direct comparison or an IQ measurement has to come into it.

Bijou, that is how I’ve responded thus far—by pointing out the thing that he is extremely skilled at. He knows he is, so it isn’t surprising to him, just like being smart doesn’t surprise me. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be an issue any more. If he does start going overboard on the degree again, I might just mention the possibility of me responding with an equal number of comments about his skill. But we are getting to know each other. He commented on his own background today, assuming it was like my son’s, and I assume he saw that neither of us can relate to it.

Sarah, *he* certainly would be able to handle the difference in privilege, but I don’t know if the relationship could. That’s no way to start off.

Oh, that’s interesting, FI. Also sheds more light on where you’re coming from. When I was young (Lol, because now I don’t invite people over), people would come over and comment on my neighborhood - ‘You’re rich!’ That *is* awkward. You just know that’s a potential point of alienation. Also weird because it’s all relative: I’ve also felt like the poorest kid on the block and that put up roadblocks in my own life.

And then I have to tell my story again, from my 15 years in the ghetto, where the little kids called me ‘the white lady.’ It was shocking, really shocking. One doesn’t know info gaps can be so huge... until one does.

Sounds to me that by him saying your smart, that he's feeling bad about himself. Or, why should this (traditionally defined) smart lady like me? Which is of course silly, since smart comes in many forms!
You made me think of the song "might not like me" by Brynn Elliott. She's basically saying, so what if I'm better than you at this or that? Hopefully the link works right!
Might Not Like Me https://g.co/kgs/HhYPo8

I haven't read the entire thread, and I'm not completely sure of the actual context, but IMO the quickest way to "shut down" this route of conversation is simply to say "Thank you for the compliment." Any more that you add on to that by way of explanation is going to get you into territory where it sounds like you do not want to go just yet. I would just continue saying "Thank you" for the time being, and then later on, if the relationship starts to grow and you feel some level of trust between the two of you, you can say, "By the way, I've always been a little uncomfortable with that compliment." And then you can explain why.

My standard reply to "You're so smart!" is to say brightly "Thanks! I'm smart about some things!"
I feel this honors the compliment, doesn't downplay my smartness but recognizes that there are lots of ways to be smart besides academically - mechanically, socially, emotionally, etc.

I can see where this would be annoying. I’m more annoyed when someone demeans my intelligence by saying something like “ You’re shoes are amazing!” in a work context where it’s totally inappropriate and where I have just accomplished something meaningful. It’s demeaning and belittling. Hmm......

Ok. Sorry. One more peanut gallery comment: that’s really funny about introducing one’s self as having a high IQ. Also lot of Mensa members in the family. Anyone remember Mensa? No? That’s because it’s so damn annoying. Lol.

My response to this kind of comment has always been a succinct “Well, there’s knowledge and then there’s wisdom “

Staysfit, good point about compliments on appearance in inappropriate settings!

This whole discussion has left me kind of bewildered. People are insulted at getting compliments? Is this a thing now? What is happening????? Color me confused.

Xtabay, you and me both.

I keep thinking about this thread! There has been a lot of discussion here about graciously accepting compliments and the like. But the more I think about it the more I realize that in the past every time I've heard "You're so smart!" from a man I didn't yet know very well, it has turned out not to be a compliment, exactly. (Sort of along the lines of what rachylou was talking about in her very first post on the thread.)

On the other hand that doesn't seem to be Fashintern's perception of the situation, and indeed I hope her experience is different.

Anyway. Maybe it's just the foggy lens of my own experience, but I still feel like there's something I'm not grasping about the situation here!

hmmmm. not 100% sure i understand this, but what i percieve the issue to be, is that this new "friend" is giving a compliment which you don't feel comfortable recieving...and reading thru the lines, i'm guessing that this "friend" already knows this, and so in my experience, this isn't a compliment. i'd try one more time with a simple, "thank you, it's a burden but one i've learned to live with, now let's talk about something else". and if it's mentioned again, i'd realize this person is not a friend, and move on.
or maybe i have this completely wrong, if that's so, ignore this and move on.

People don’t get, generally, that compliments can make people uncomfortable? That’s come up on the forum before, so I’m not going to address it.

Kkards, thanks for that. I think sock boots are weird and ugly. When people post about wanting them, I don’t reply that it is strange to wish for such a thing; I assume that an appropriate response would be predicated on agreement that sock boots are a good thing. So I nod and move on quietly. I also don’t say much about posts where people don’t want their big boobs to be prominent, because that is an issue that is clearly not familiar to me. I really don’t see how/why people find it necessary to keep repeating that they disagree with me on this/can’t relate instead of ignoring and moving on as you said. I do ask lots of questions. I try to formulate good, thought-provoking questions that are not simply “how can you not agree with my feelings on stupid, ugly sock boots?” I will have to use this thread as a reminder that the world doesn’t owe me explanations, that after I’ve asked once or maybe twice, if I still don’t get it, then it’s time to shrug and move on.

He brought this up again yesterday when I was rejected for a job: “but you’re smarter than they are”. That time it was easy to point out that brains clearly aren’t the only thing that matters, and I haven’t been doing what I need to for a while, am working back and will then be awesome. So we are getting there.

I don’t understand at all the notion of being offended by a genuine compliment. If it’s backhanded or sarcastic that’s another thing. I would recommend either responding with a gracious thank you, or alternatively explain that for your own reasons you do not enjoy compliments and you don’t want to receive any. *shrug*