Take a moment and think about the last time someone paid you a really sweet, over-the-top compliment. What did you say? How did you respond? What was your immediate reaction? If you’re anything like me, your response probably negated whatever the complimenter just said:
“You think this hair looks good? Ha! It’s a total rats’ nest!” (laughing)
“You thought my presentation was effective? Maybe kind of, but I completely butchered that last part.” (eye roll)
“You think my house looks cute? I could make a blanket from all the dust bunnies!” (throw hands in air)
Sound familiar? Often these responses to genuine compliments are delivered in a humorous form. The complimenter then laughs and nods in reluctant agreement. This whole interaction is so sadly interesting because the complimenter then basically goes back on what he or she originally said, leaving the two parties believing the opposite of the compliment. Crazy!
Check out this Amy Schumer skit in which a group of women seriously cannot take a compliment. It’s funny, yes, but also makes me stop to wonder why this reaction to praise is so common.
Do we actually not believe the kind things people say and think about us? Do we feel unworthy of praise? Does a compliment just make us uncomfortable?
Not going to lie, I could make a sport out of disagreeing with compliments; I actually enjoy the sassy retort. Yet, I realized I wanted to stop this behavior when my mother told me recently, “you’re such a great mom.” All of a sudden I didn’t want to argue with that. Since my son was born almost two and a half years ago, all I have wanted to be is a great mom. Heck, I’d settle for a good mom. And the fact that my mom, (in my eyes, the best mom) was paying me this incredibly sought after compliment was something I wanted to savor. It’s something I wanted to believe.
I vowed then to answer compliments with a simple thank you. At first this practice felt unnatural. I had to hold myself back from the self-deprecating wisecracks. But then after a while, the thank you response left so much energy on the table for moving on to the next subject. Simultaneously and a bit sub-conscienscly, I actually started to believe the compliment. And because the whole awkward back-and-forth of oh-no-I’m-not-whatever-you-just-said-I-am had ended, space became available to reciprocate:
“The color of that yoga top looks amazing on you!”
“Thank you! … You had such a great class today, I saw some of your postures and WOW!”
Right?! Not only does this interaction allow the compliment to sink in (i.e. no one is disagreeing with it) but also the compliment train just keeps on going. More people feeling good? I like the sound of that.
Something I aim to do with Rather Be Sweating is to free up energy so that we (you, me, anyone reading) can focus and do the things we’d rather be doing. Why waste energy on discounting a perfectly nice thing someone has to say? Next time you receive a compliment, just say thank you.