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I frequently want to express a feeling of pleasure to be associated with someone who is doing something exceptional. The phrase that comes to mind is, "I'm proud of you," but I am troubled by a certain sense of the word that suggests that I am responsible for the success of that person. It has a bit of a patronizing, parental feel to it.

So for years, I've been hunting for something that expresses some of the same sentiments, without the troublesome patronizing connotations.

Any suggestions?

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    I don't see the patronizing connotations. A son could say this about his parents (or a daughter hers), a teammate could say it about another teammate — and so on — just as easily as a boss could say it about an employee. It does not imply superior station. – Robusto Apr 15 '14 at 0:14
  • I'm truly proud of you. – ermanen Apr 15 '14 at 0:55
  • If you add connotations that don't exist to words, it is hard to recommend one without knowing what you will add to that definition. – Oldcat Apr 15 '14 at 23:04
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    This is the difference between denotation and connotation -- a degree of subjectivity which also depends on your audience. To say that I am adding connotations that don't exist is to fail to understand the meaning of connotation. I'm telling you that for my listeners, my pride in them is grating and has patronizing overtones. A child can express pride for their parent with no perceived patronization, while a parent expressing pride for their child is almost by definition patronizing, and more likely to reveal sensitivity and power differential. – Wes Modes Apr 16 '14 at 18:32
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I came across your question while looking for the same answer! Only 3 years late…

Pride is, in my opinion, a deeply egocentric concept (which is why it's often seen as negative, certainly Google's definition speaks exclusively about self-satisfaction). The difficulty I've had in finding an alternative is that the feeling I wish to express when I come across this issue is still very egocentric: I feel good in your reflected glow (to paraphrase your earlier comment).

I've experimented with "I'm impressed by you(r work)", but this implies that you held a low opinion of them beforehand, and herein lies the problem: we're trying to express a relative feeling, maybe something like "your work is better than I've seen before", but this doesn't sound genuine at all.

I'm coming round to the feeling that it's the specificity of "proud" — parental, ownership-based relativism — that makes it work in this context at all, so if we wish to remove that aspect we might find that sense of genuine praise in picking something different, and maybe individual, to be specific about.

Rephrasing in a mildly deferential tone, perhaps referencing more of the effect the impressive aspect has had on you, might smooth off any remaining sharp edges:

  • I'm in awe of your insightfulness
  • Your attention to detail humbles me
  • I'm envious of your ability (if you want to keep a deadly sin in there 😉)
  • Your passion is inspiring

Of course, you can always flip the subject with a bit of linguistic gymnastics:

  • I hope you're proud of what you've achieved, I certainly would be.
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    Looked at this a bunch of times now, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness. :-) – Wes Modes Dec 18 '17 at 23:58
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Looking at the definitions of the word pride, there is a definite implication that you are somehow responsible for their success. In particular, the fourth definition,

Pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself

fits the worry you described. Indeed, pride is commonly used in the familial sense of a parent expressing pride in their child. The connotations aren't necessarily negative or patronizing, but I agree that using pride can suggest you are responsible for the success of the other person.

I'm a fan of Frank's suggestion of "honored" as in "I'm honored to have a friend like you". By saying it is an honor to be their friend, you are expressing that feeling of pleasure to be associated with them.

That said, "honored" is a bit formal and may feel awkward when said in speech. I usually fall back to describing other feelings, like "what you've done amazes me," or "I'm so glad to be here for your big day."

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    Thank you for validating my perception. Let's keep this discussion going. I feel it is important to honor those around us while simultaneously being honest about our emotions. The wordy version of the sense I'm working toward is: "While I am not responsible for the great things you are doing, it makes me feel good to be associated with you, a reflected glow like warming myself beside a fire." I'd even be happy with a portmanteau. – Wes Modes Apr 16 '14 at 18:37
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You could try

I am honoured to be your friend.

That should make it clear that you are not attempting to claim any responsibility for their success.

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I think it's best to focus on how you feel about what they've done, as being proud can have a negative connotation and can seem condescending, as you stated. Sometimes, it can even relay that you were somehow related to their accomplishment, which may not be true.

Instead try something along these lines: "I'm so appreciative and happy of all the things you've done." or "I'm so excited when I see what you are doing."

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At least one definition of "pride" has no association with claiming credit.

a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.

That doesn't preclude someone from taking the comment the wrong way, of course, but I don't think most folks would read that into it.

I would agree that "I am proud of you" has a parental/older-relative/mentor sort of feel to it, but I would not equate that to "patronizing". It can be patronizing depending on the tone of delivery, the relationship between the individuals, etc. but it can also be a very sweet sentiment in the right circumstances.

I don't think there is a direct substitute for the phrase, but you could try describing an alternative feeling. In addition to being proud, perhaps you are happy, excited or appreciative. Or perhaps you shouldn't describe your feelings at all but instead just focus on factually complimenting what a great job they did.

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You can be gratulant with a 1. a vote or expression of assent by saying the word placet -Latin is never patronizing

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  • I like that one. I will try to incorporate it into my vocab. – Wes Modes Apr 16 '14 at 18:38
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Perhaps by specifying what it is that your proud of rather than the person alone e.g. "I'm proud of the efforts you made today." or "Because of you that family still has a roof over it's head. I'm proud oto be your friend."

Not sure if this response helps since it came so late but you never know.

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  • Welcome to EL&U! Your response definitely helps but you need to add in some references and more explanation to perfect it. Take the Tour and see How to Answer for more. – BladorthinTheGrey Oct 21 '16 at 15:39
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I like to use fulfillment in place of pride.

Tangentially, I find pride to dissuade people from introspection.

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  • Example sentence? – Wes Modes Apr 16 '14 at 18:40
  • One example sentence says "I find fulfillment in helping others." Another way to say the same thing is "helping others brings me a sense of fulfillment." – Kyle Thomas May 25 '14 at 21:36

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