Photo: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
"Three different sources have confirmed that you're generous, nice to animals and funny."
It happens all the time during coffee dates or lunches at work—a friend's name comes up in conversation and everyone there suddenly begins to talk about how amazing this person is: for example, how whip-smart she was during the budget meeting, how kind she was to the obviously lonely woman in production, how she always smells a little like fresh vanilla cupcakes. Unfortunately, due to her absence, she'll never know about this avalanche of admiration—unless you inform her. Passing along the descriptions will not only make her feel quite special for possessing these characteristics, but it will also disable the compliment-deflecting shield that so many of us have, because by delivering this praise, you can't possibly just be trying to “cheer her up" or trying to “be sweet." You didn't actually say those things. Other people did.