Have you ever been given a compliment, but you just sit their awkwardly not knowing how to accept it?
Read further if this sounds like you.
Why can it be so hard to receive a compliment? Even something as simple as "you look really great today! It looks like you've been hitting the gym!" Or, " That outfit looks great on you."
Whether it was how I looked, an accomplishment I’ve recently achieved, an idea I had, or even just on a dish I cooked, when people complimented me, I thought they were lying or trying to manipulate me somehow. Or, even when they meant well, I didn’t recognize that what I’ve done was actually good enough to receive praise.
Like when your partner tells you you’re looking like a "delicious snack" — they’re kind of obligated, so the meaningfulness kind of falls to the way side.
So when someone used to say, "Wow, you've really been putting in some hard work are the gym, you look great!" The classic Dillon response was,
"Thanks but.... **cue the negative self talk** "
This might sound familiar to some of you — the ability to overlook fifty positive comments in favour of the one negative one that someone said to you... once... ten years ago... It’s so easy to believe, dwell on, and eternally reflect on the negative even when it’s overwhelmingly outweighed by the positive.
So Why does this happen? Why can accepting a compliment feel so terribly awkward or difficult?
Psychology tells us that it's a thought loop. There are three factors happening here, feeding into one another endlessly to make it difficult to accept compliments:
-and high expectations.
Essentially It goes like this: we don’t think much of ourselves, for whatever the reason might be. Maybe it’s imposter syndrome, or maybe we’ve only been valued for one aspect of 'us' for most of our life. Which can make it nearly impossible to see our value in others.
Put simply, we may just be continuously comparing ourselves to others and coming up short in our own estimation. We are our own worst critic.
Either way, the answer to the 'why' behind it is "low self-esteem."
So when someone offers a compliment, this conflicts us with the truth we hold about ourselves. It’s uncomfortable for our mind because we’re faced with two prospects:
1) we’re wrong about ourself
2) they’re lying.
We can’t simultaneously believe that we suck, AND believe someone else when they say that we don’t.
Everyone craves praise, but to accept a compliment with grace is an almost universal challenge. So, how do we fix this? What can we do?
FIRST, I'm going to outline what we DON"T do.
-Stop Putting yourself down: One reaction to compliments is to say “I don’t deserve it” and list reasons why. Stop doing that.
-Stop Assuming the other person doesn’t really mean it: You may be right, sometimes, but it doesn’t matter. Responding as if they DID mean it disarms whatever ulterior motive they might have had. On the other hand, acting as if they didn’t mean it when they did is insulting and makes you come off as a jerk.
-Stop Pointing out your own weaknesses: A compliment isn’t about your weaknesses, it’s about your strengths. There’s plenty of time to focus on improving faults later; but for now, bask in the recognition of what doesn’t need to be fixed.
-Stop Deflecting compliments to others: We often respond to the embarrassment of being singled out for praise by deflecting it to others. Others may be deserving, but so are you.
-Stop Claiming it was all “luck”: Another way of deflecting embarrassing attention from yourself, with the added bonus of freeing you from responsibility for not only your successes but your failures.
-Stop Making them work for it: Cut the long stream of “no, it was nothings” and “I just did what I had to dos.” Let people give you the compliment. Pushing it off until they’ve given it three or four times, is selfish.
Now that the "DO NOT'S" are out of the way, lets get to 6 "HOW TO's" of accepting a compliment.
-Own your accomplishments: It wasn’t luck or the goodwill of others or any other reason that you managed to do something praiseworthy. It was your own effort and commitment. Even if you truly were just in the right place at the right time, you deserve credit for recognizing that opportunity and acting on it.
-Be appreciative: A compliment is a gift. Would you put down or reject a gift from a friend? I didn't think so. So please treat compliments the same way.
-Be honest and optimistic about the future. Not pointing out your weaknesses doesn’t mean you can’t be honest about what lays ahead. However, a simple response of, “Thank you! We still have to do x, y, and z but it’s good to see we’re on the right track” will suffice. Don’t make someone waste their effort paying a compliment by telling them how the thing they’re praising is probably doomed to fail in the long run.
-Recognize your contribution. You may not be the only one who deserves to be complimented on a job well-done. It’s fine to say so, but remember that if you’re a part of your group’s success, don’t say “Well, Jason and Connor deserve all the credit." Instead say “Thanks, I’m sure Jason and Connor will appreciate hearing that, too.”
-Follow up. If applicable, offer to involve the person giving you a compliment in your success. “Thanks, Kyle. I wonder if you’d like to help us out by offering some feedback?”
-Be gracious. Giving a compliment isn’t always easy. When someone does offer you one, accept it with gratitude and without resistance. Pay one back, if merited. Let people know that you appreciate them for appreciating you.
Accepting a compliment doesn't make you cocky, or arrogant. Just a reasonably self-assured person. The good news is that you're not alone in this. I have personally struggled with this area, in addition to countless clients or people I have worked with. Mastering the art of receiving compliments helps make you into MORE of a well-balanced, self-assured person — which, in turn, will earn you more compliments that will boost your self esteem and Self Confidence.