The main problem with me is that I am a slow learner. (You know of more such problems with me? You can keep the list, I do not want it). By the time I learn any lesson I am either too set in my ways or it is too late in life to apply it. Like, say, learning the best pick-up lines when you are hardly able to get yourself up from bed without help, leave alone getting anything else up. So, I am left with trying to pass on the lessons to others while there is still time for them to benefit from them.
Whenever I used to be a guest at someone else's place, I invariably either found the food good or pretended it was. As long as it was edible, I really was satisfied and could actually say good things about it. If it seemed more like the sort of thing that would have pigs turning away in disdain, I still managed to say a "Hmmm" in a suitably positive tone in reply to the customary, "How did you like the food?"
Do you think this got me liked and respected by my hosts? Not that I could notice. I got the reputation of being 'easy to please' AND, if you people have not realized it, THAT is the reputation that classifies you just below the pet dog in terms of respect. There was this cousin of mine who used to say,"The curry requires a nano-gram more of salt; the sambhar had a milliliter more of sourness and the curd was too sweet." The hosts used to hang on to his words and take solace in the fact that the water, at least, met his exacting standards.
The net result of this was that when I hove to on the horizon the hosts used to say, "Ah! Suresh! No problem. He will eat anything". If I stand up at the end of the meal and give a heartfelt lecture praising the cooking, the hosts just said the equivalent of "So what else is new?" and changed the subject. When my cousin comes over, they are all atwitter - with the hostess hovering around him and looking with a mix of eagerness and apprehension to await his comments. If, perchance, he mentioned that the rasam was perfect on that day, the hostess used to proudly mention it to all and sundry multiple times for the next year or so.
Ergo, in any social interaction - as guest, boss, whatever - if you want respect, please do not get labeled 'easy to please'. If you are normally critical, the one time you do not criticize is the time that the recipient will proudly talk of to the rest of the world. If you praise normally, then your praise will be so much water off a duck's back. And THAT respect will be so accorded despite the fact that the expertise you have in the concerned subject would be as high as the ignorance that the 'hard-to-please' chap has.
The problem, though, is in getting the reputation of being 'easy to please' in the first place. Once you have it, you are doomed. If, for some reason including a vain attempt to gain some respect, you utter a critical comment once, you may rest assured that THAT will be the end of that relationship. (There is an apocryphal story about this. A beggar was used to being served food at one house every day and driven off from the other. On one day, the ungenerous household gave him alms and the generous household had to refuse. To which he is supposed to have said, "When even the goddess who never gave alms has given it today, what happened to the demon who was giving every day?")
If you intend making a switch from being the one to becoming the other, please be careful. It is, of course, a fact that an appearance of being finicky automatically endows you with a reputation for expertise in the subject matter and, therefore, makes the recipient treasure your compliments when you do deign to give them. It is not really necessary to be an expert. BUT, please do not think that throwing the dish in disdain with comments like, "Even a dog will not eat this" will endear you to your hosts. Also, it is necessary to keep the mystique of expertise intact by knowing enough not to make egregiously incorrect comments. If you end up saying, "It looks like you have put in salt instead of sugar" while eating an upma and taking it for Kesari, it is unlikely that your hosts will fall all over themselves in the future to get a good word out of you on their food.
If I have waxed eloquent on this subject only based on food, it is only because each man speaks of that which interests him the most. The appellation 'easy to please' is as much of a problem in all other areas of social interaction as in food - a fact that I know to my cost but way too late for me to do anything about it.
There is one further cautionary message that I need to add. There was this boss of mine who was a nitpicking editor of English in all letter and notes that went to him. Needless to say, most of my office took pride in saying things like, "You know! I sent a draft letter yesterday and it came back without a single correction" with a look that expected the instant bestowing of a Bharat Ratna for the achievement. So far, so good and no need for caution, right?
The problem here, as usual, was your truly. I am an unduly generous person in some ways (You have not seen any evidence of it? I cannot answer for you lack of observational skills. If you do not have microscopic vision, am I to blame for it?). Seeing my boss so obviously at a loss for how to while away his time that he was even making six sentence corrections on a single sentence letter on the lines of "Enclosed please find...", I decided to ensure that he did not get bored in office. So, I just put up all the draft letters from my subordinates. without bothering to edit the English, thereby ensuring that he had enough to correct and I was saved the effort. A perfect win-win situation. In the normal course, I should have been the apple of his eye. Strange though that he never really thought of me as the brother he never had. It is the degeneracy of the times that people never really show gratitude when it is due.
Where was I? Ah! If you do switch to the 'hard to please' mold, you may find some mavericks like me who would rather not trouble themselves unduly for the uncertain and dubious pleasure of some day getting a compliment from you. That, however, would only be the exception that, purportedly, proves the rule.
So, please do not make the mistake that I made. Never be easy to please. That way lies disrespect!