If you truly wish to annoy me, simply tell me, “You’re the best!”
There are a few possible notions attached to a compliment that revolves around “best”. First off, you could think that the person is, in fact, the best. If that is true, then great. However, the second possibility is that you are trying to be nice, but in fact are being disingenuous. If you tell three coworkers that they are all the best, then it comes across as empty praise.
Telling people over and over that they are the best can be dangerous. It can lead to arrogance. And yes, it can lead to nationalism, which is trouble. Newsroom made an excellent case for that in its famous opening scene.
There will always, always be someone better at something than you. There will a person who can run faster than you. There will be a person who is smarter than you. And yeah, there just might be a person who can do the job better than you. There are seven billion people around; a little humility is called for.
As someone who is hard to please, I realize that other words simply do not fit the bill. “Hey, man! The way you filled that report out? You were competent!” “I know I do not say this enough sweetie, but the way you sang to me at our wedding? It was adorable and not entirely awful.” “Thanks for the Christmas gift. It was a reasonable purchase for my seasonal desires.” All I can suggest is throw out a “Nice job” or, “Thanks for working on that”.
Compliment all you like, but perhaps stop short of “awesome”. (Sunsets are awesome. Mt. Rainier with snow on top is awesome. A tornado forming and descending majestically on the plains is awesome. Collating data and stapling it into a report is decidedly not awesome.)
There is nothing that I am the best at. (If labeled as the worst at taking compliments, that might be true. I don’t throw buckets of coal at people when they try to be nice, but I certainly cannot take a compliment.) You know what? That is perfectly fine by me. I do not need to be the best. However, I would like to think that I strive to be better.
My recommendation is to stop comparing. You should only be competing with yourself. Can you do better than what you have done before? We should aspire to improve, but not to compare. How are you showing yourself as the best at something unless you think someone else inferior? That dangerously butts into the area of judging, and judging others is not what we should aspire to.
Why is Superman one of the greatest? Because he believes in people; he sets himself up as an example to others, not as the solution. He inspires, he does not dictate. Look at the truly great heroes. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi; these are not figures that loudly exclaimed that they were kinder or wiser than others. They simply listened to their callings and did them the best they knew how. Humility goes a long way.
As for me? I am not the best writer. Not even close. However I like to think that I am getting better. I am not the kindest person, but I learn a little more patience day by day; often from those around me who are much more gifted in that area than I. Learn from those around you. Do not try to put them down so you can rise a little higher. Take inspiration from what you see and decide if you can use it to improve yourself.
Besides, if someone thinks you are the quickest draw in the west, they’ll come gunnin’ for ya. And that could all go horribly awry 😉