“We are prepared for insults, but compliments leave us baffled.” –Mason Cooley
How do you feel about that quote? I have found it to be true, both in myself and others. Of course, there is a flip side, and a middle ground, too.
The flip side refers to those who are overly confident and often boastful. Both excessive modesty and boastfulness are unattractive in their own ways. The middle ground is learning to graciously accept compliments and positive feedback. One would think this shouldn’t have to be a learned behavior, but for many it is.
Most of my life, I downplayed my talents, deflected compliments, and was even defensive and self-critical when praised. I no longer do that. What changed my response? Embarrassment, which is ironic because it was embarrassment that caused me to deflect in the first place!
One day I offered a genuine, heartfelt compliment to a friend for achieving a hard-won goal. I wanted to celebrate her success with her, but she was less enthused than I. No matter what I said, she either shrugged her shoulders or expressed all the ways in which she fell short. It was frustrating and quite embarrassing to have every compliment thrown back at me in shreds.
It was a light bulb moment and I realized I often did the same thing!
It was at that moment I learned something important: It is ungracious to deflect a compliment. It puts the giver on the defensive. That’s just poor manners! One thing I never want to be accused of is having poor manners, so then and there I decided I would learn to accept compliments.
For a while, I was still uncomfortable receiving compliments, but no matter what, I acknowledged the giver by simply saying thank you. No need to elaborate; no need to offer a counter-compliment to balance the field; just a simple thank you. Amazingly, doing so took all discomfort from the encounter.
Accepting a compliment goes beyond the compliment itself. It causes the receiver to stop and consider his or her efforts and acknowledge themselves We work hard to perform our jobs, raise our families, complete projects, be fashionable, be healthy, and myriad other efforts. A compliment is simply an outside observation that we are doing something right. That is a great thing…allow it, embrace it, tuck it in your win folder and celebrate yourself!
The above also holds true for receiving a gift: If someone gives you a gift, it’s because they want to. Allow them to, thank them, don’t make excuses for why you don’t have a reciprocal gift, etc. Acknowledge their kindness and generosity, and welcome that someone cares about you enough to make such an effort.
Before I close, I’d like to share a little bit about giving compliments (and gifts). Understand not everyone is comfortable receiving, so it’s just as important to give graciously. By this I mean, don’t say or do anything that puts the receiver in an awkward position. For instance, if a woman commonly dresses in a dowdy fashion, but suddenly has on a killer outfit, saying, “Wow! You look great today!” may translate to her as, “You finally have on something decent.” I know, it can be tricky. Instead, a comment such as, “I love that color and style on you, it shows off your hair cut and your beautiful eyes” leaves little room for reinterpretation.
Somewhere in life I learned when complimenting, compliment the person, not the item, action or deed; when criticism is necessary, criticize the behavior, outcome, or item, not the person. Seems to be a good thing to remember.
How about you? Where are you not owning your talents? Where have your well-intentioned comments been off mark and had an effect opposite what you desired? A little food for thought.
Thank you for spending some of your time with me today, I appreciate you!
The Yellow Kite