When I was 16, I read an article saying anyone could have a lot of friends by giving out compliments – like saying how much you like someone’s shirt or hairstyle. At the time, I wanted more friends, so I tried it. I can’t remember if it worked or not. Since I was really only doing it for selfish reasons, it felt fake and I had to stop. Those kind of compliments, designed only to win favor, are useless to people because they don’t support or encourage anyone in a way that matters. They’re nothing more than small talk.
That early experience influenced my thinking about compliments for a long time.
Back then and for some time into my adulthood, I couldn’t take compliments well at all. In fact, I rejected most of them, believing they were untrue or dishonest. Playing badminton with people’s compliments became such a solid habit, I wasn’t even aware I was doing it.
But lately I’ve been on the receiving end of several compliments from people I know and from complete strangers. Their sincere comments have been pointing toward things I’ve given a lot of attention to like my dancing, marketing strategies at work, my house and garden… It feels good to have people notice when you put effort into something.
All of this got me thinking about how compliments reflect how others perceive us, but also how we feel and what we think about ourselves. The truth is, not everyone can take a compliment, even sitting down. If that’s true, what does our personal interaction with positive feedback tell us about our self esteem?
Rejecting, or deflecting compliments is something we do when our beliefs and the things people say don’t match. We shun compliments because we judge our appearance, actions and accomplishments harsher than anyone. We don’t do it intentionally, but it’s pretty destructive just the same.
Take note if you use any of these expressions…EVER!
Oh, “You’re just being kind….”
Or, “Well maybe, but I still need to work harder… ”
“Sure, but I could be even better…if..”
“Oh, it’s nothing special really…”
“Sure, but I’m not as good as … (another person)”
Any of these sound familiar? Deflecting a compliment indicates your evaluation of yourself is not accurate. You’re not seeing what other people see. If you reject kind words often enough, people will quit offering positive feedback because it always falls on deaf ears. You just can’t hear it and that can be frustrating for anyone.
So what difference does it make if we take a compliment to heart, or not?
Well, a compliment is how other people give us love and approval – one of the main things we want more of in life. Taking in the love can sometimes be hard because we don’t believe that we deserve it. We always think we need to do more; but compliments are how people let us know that we are enough and that they value us the way we are. You must “accept” compliments to experience and feel the love attached to them. Doing so will help you build up a reserve of self love that will see you through anything.
Here’s how it can work for you!
Listen carefully when someone is offering you a compliment. Don’t cut them off, or deflect what they are saying. Listen to the details. Listen for the truth. People who compliment you are usually just affirming what you already partially believe. If you listen carefully, you’ll discover your efforts are bringing the results you want.
Resist the urge to say anything too soon. If you jump right on their words, you may revert to an old way of handling a compliment. LISTEN instead.
Accept the compliment – summon up the courage and self-confidence to say, thank you! It can really be that simple. Just, “thank you.” But once you get good at taking a compliment simply, you can add things like, “That really means a lot to me – I’ve been working really hard on that. Or, It feels nice for someone to notice, etc…”
Understand at this point that you’re making an exchange! You see, in order for someone to notice your greatness, they have to be aware of the same things within themselves. We cannot see what we don’t possess. So when you exchange a sincere thank you for a compliment, you’re also honoring that other person in your acceptance. You’re recognizing the same type of great in them. Accepting a compliment also lets the giver know you hold them in high esteem because you value their opinion and accept their evaluation as valid and true. Imagine that, accepting a compliment is pretty much as good as giving one.
Finally, the most important part of taking a compliment well is how you use it internally. Acknowledging and accepting sincere compliments teaches you to believe the best about yourself and recognize the effect you have on others. Taking a compliment for the truth, you amplify your own judgment of yourself. Let those kind words be an indicator that you’re on the right track, doing what you came here to do; then look for ways to offer the same assurance to others. In this simple exchange, we increase the human potential every time we acknowledge and accept other human beings without judgment.