It took me quite a while to learn how to accept compliments gracefully. My instinctive response would go something like this:
“Oh, this old thing, I’ve had it about 20 years” or
“No need to thank me, it was nothing” or
“Don’t mention it. Anyone could have done that”
In reality, that outfit looked good on me and its age was irrelevant. In truth, it wasn’t ‘nothing’; it was something – not least use of my precious time. The fact is they should mention it as most people couldn’t have done what I did; that’s why they were thanking me in the first place!
I used to see my discomfort reflected in others’ responses to compliments all the time; people doing themselves down rather than simply saying thank you with grace. The turning point for me came when I disagreed with someone who happened to be my boss at the time. He was giving me feedback on one of my natural strengths. His reply to my denigrating comments stopped me in my tracks. He said “Well Robyn, I guess you know yourself better than I. So if you’re telling me you’re not very good then I’ll have to take that as fact.”
Ouch!!! What had I done? I’d just persuaded my boss that I was rubbish at something he believed me to be good at! Why would anyone do that? Why would we openly reject another’s well-meaning comments in favour of putting ourselves down? No doubt you can relate. I’m sure we’ve all done it at one time or another.
I learned that day to take note of my achievements and play to my strengths rather than dismissing them. I regularly ask for feedback from work colleagues as well as clients and I make a point of listening to what they say. Now when a client says “I really don’t know what to offer you Robyn, in terms of improvement; you were great and I’m chuffed to bits with the result” I can smile warmly, knowing I’ve done a good job for my client.
So, I’d like you to take a moment to think on the last compliment you were paid. What was the achievement and how did you feel about it? Did you dismiss it and make it seem unimportant or did you embrace it and say thanks with grace?
Your instinctive response provides the best feedback of all. It tells you where your confidence levels are in that moment and may also be a more general reflection of your self- esteem.