Start, Stop & Change: compliments

What did you say the last time someone complimented you? Did you accept or deflect?

Did you respond with:

Thank you.
I really appreciate that feedback.
Thanks for the acknowledgement.
Thanks for noticing.
I appreciate the kind words.
That means a lot. Thank you.

I’m guessing it wasn’t any of those.

  • I recently complimented a woman at the cafe on her outfit. She spent five minutes telling me how old it was.
  • When I complimented a colleague on her new business cards, she responded they weren’t as professional as mine.
  • During a recent dinner party I complimented a friend on her beautiful home. She said I should see the overstuffed closets.
  • I complimented a client’s progress on a project that had been stalled. She responded with all that was left to do, never acknowledging what she’d already accomplished or my compliment.

I’m not immune.

A few days ago someone complimented me on photos from a recent photo shoot. Instead of simply saying thank you, I launched into a deprecating monologue about the many culled shots where I had a crazed look in my eyes and gaping mouth.

Why do we do this? Why do we volley the compliment away like a hot potato?

The gift of a compliment

The person doing the complimenting has given you a little gift.

Imagine if it were a tangible gift they handed you. Wrapped in pretty paper with a bow on top. And instead of acknowledging the gift with appreciation and opening it (receiving it), you push it back into their hands as you outline a litany of the gift’s shortcomings.

That’s essentially what’s happening when you deflect a compliment.

You deny the giver the gift of their compliment.

I suppose there are any number of reasons we deflect and downplay and debate compliments:

  • We don’t want to appear arrogant and feel downplaying is more humble.
  • We worry about being judged harshly if we appear too big for our britches.
  • We’re uncomfortable with the attention and deflecting lessens the spotlight.
  • Our own inner critic can’t stand that we’re being positively acknowledged.

That’s probably just scratching the surface of why we deflect compliments. More important than teasing out what’s behind this behavior is making a conscious decision to stop. Now. From this day forward.

Here’s your mini mission

The next time someone compliments you, accept. Simply. Graciously. Give yourself the gift of truly letting the compliment in. Give the giver of the compliment the gift of a graceful thank you.