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Accepting Compliments 101

Approximately a decade ago it clicked for me the fact someone else was great at something did not, in any way, diminish my greatness at aforementioned endeavor.

Let me elaborate.

If, for example, I read a friend’s manuscript & am blown away by her writing skills it does not make my writing any less fantastic.

If, for example, I see a woman sauntering down the street looking fabulously coiffed and I tell her so—-it doesn’t make my hair that day any less lovely looking.

Make sense?

Let’s examine the notion how, in my younger years, I didn’t always grasp the fact there was no need to feel threatened by someone for her ‘gifts.’

In my 20’s I hadn’t yet come to the realization there’s room enough for us all to rock.  And, your rockage doesn’t dim mine.

At all.

A few years later I‘m aware of the fact that together our lights shine brighter.

Following this Ah Ha! moment, however,  I probably grew too excited to acknowledge others.

I already lacked an internal monologue and immediately started approaching strangers and telling them precisely what I thought.

You look awesome today! I like to pretend the reason I’m a mess is because I work from home—-but that’s just an excuse. I never looked as pulled together as you do.  It's who I am. You look great!”

“Wow. I saw how you handed that interaction and had to come up and tell you how in awe I am of your zen like calm. I would have lost my mind.”

I’d thought bestowing these compliments would feel great!

I’d imagine doing it might brighten my day, too. A sort of “helpers high” boost to me as well as the person to whom I was giving the kind words.


One word: awkward.

I was brushed off. I received the inexplicable “Oh? You too!!"  A few times I almost wished I could take the entire nicety back---until I realized my own ability to accept compliments had been a process.

And I pondered that process.

And a blog post was born.


Accepting Compliments 101: a refresher course we can all use.

1. Pause and listen to what the person is saying. HEAR the compliment. STOP yourself from immediately responding “It’s nothing” or ‘I usually screw everything up. I was lucky this time!‘ 

Sit with the praise no matter how uncomfortable or ‘unworthy’ of it you may feel.   Take additional time, when you’re ready, and ask yourself why you might feel embarrassed/unworthy of the specific kindness. Speaking of which…

2. Remember there is kindness behind the words. When you brush off a compliment you are, in essence, denigrating its giver.  You place the person complimenting you in the position of defending her judgment. By reflexively launching into a list of what you perceive to be your weaknesses you both begin to feel awkward.  This discomfort is not, I guarantee you, the compliment-givers intention.

No matter what you feel in the moment try and smile in a way that conveys you appreciate the thought behind the words.

3. Do respond honestly to the praise. While I urge you to accept the compliment, there’s nothing wrong with explaining your 'success.'  One woman whom I praised for staying shockingly calm while her toddler had a public meltdown, explained to me it was an entirely new approach for her.  She shared she was completely calm merely because it was the first time she’d tried the tactic.

Explain if you wish (“Thanks! I never have time to plan my outfit. I made myself do it this morning. Glad it worked!”) but avoid letting the explanation transition into listing all your (perceived) faults.

4. Practice. Practice. Practice in the mirror. Is accepting a compliment not your strongest skill?  Are you one who immediately needs to return the sentiment (not necessarily a bad thing) or put yourself down?  Try repeating these phrases as you look in the mirror.

Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Thank you, I’m honored by your words.
Thank you, I admire you so your praise definitely means a great deal.
Thank you I really tried hard on this one!

5. Be the child. While I could bore you with personal stories the bottom line is children, in general, are how we should all aspire to be: uber confident.

Next time you are around children pay attention to how they accept compliments.  Chances are not only do they eagerly accept praise (“I know!”), but also point out other things they do well “(“Have you seen the way I do___ too?”)

We adults may not want to go quite that far—but a little more childlike confidence couldn’t hurt.

And there you have it.

Accepting Compliments 101--all taken from my own awkward life experiences.

And you?

What have your experiences been with both giving and receiving compliments?

Please bring your smart, wise, witty, stunning self & share in the comments below.