I have a friend who loves giving compliments. This is a wonderful characteristic of his and yet, it has really pushed me to grow in our friendship. The truth is if I were as adept at receiving compliments as he is at giving them, I wouldn’t be writing this post. So as a recovered compliment-deflector, I am here to tell you there is a better way.
It was our first “friend date” and we were making brunch in his kitchen; I remember him giving me a compliment and my awkward response.
“Thanks.” blush. squirm. stare at feet.
He looked at me puzzled, as if to say isn’t that supposed to make you feel good?
“I’m really bad at accepting compliments,” I shrug, feeling a little more vulnerable than I would like to. My self-doubt has now grown exponentially higher than before he gave me the compliment, reinforcing my fear of receiving compliments.
And that’s when my friend taught me this very important technique for accepting compliments that both makes the recipient and the giver FEEL GOOD (which I think is the purpose of compliments to begin with).
When someone gives you a compliment, OWN IT. Agree with them. Validate that the compliment is true, because it is (despite what that little irksome critical voice in your mind is telling you). Then be sure to say thank you after you have owned the compliment.
Note: owning the compliment / agreeing with the person giving the compliment is actually more meaningful than just saying thank you. It is the highest demonstration of your gratitude. Someone is sending you praise and you are showing them that you accept the praise by reflecting back to them your self-love. This is a win-win feeling for both people. There are several ways to own a compliment: directly (by saying “I am.” or “It is.”) or indirectly by adding to their statement, rather than stopping or denying it (see scenario #2 below).
Here are a few simple scenarios to demonstrate the technique in action:
#1 (owning directly)
Person A: Your dress is beautiful!
Person B: It is! I love this dress; I found it at this cute thrift shop in Portland. Thank you.
#2 (owning indirectly)
Person A: You are a great dancer.
Person B: I love dancing, so I practice a lot. Thanks!
Let’s take a minute to talk about why it is so difficult for us to accept compliments in this way. If you are at all like me, it feels foreign to own a compliment, and you are afraid that if you do, it might be perceived as arrogant or self-serving. This stems from our societal practice of self-criticism and judgement. We are not comfortable giving ourselves praise, so hearing it from someone else feels even stranger. Compliments can trigger the inner critic and escalate feelings of insecurity, that is, UNLESS you use the technique! The technique debunks the critical voice and enables you to praise yourself by affirming that the positive statement being made about you is true. Because guess what!? IT IS TRUE to the person complimenting you. If you just shrug and say “thanks,” secretly disagreeing in your mind, you actually insult the person complimenting you by believing they are lying and most of all, you insult yourself by perpetuating negative thinking, harmful self-criticism, and limiting beliefs.
I cannot say that I am 100% comfortable with accepting compliments, since it takes a lot of practice, but since I have started using this technique, I have begun to actually ENJOY being complimented! Wow, what a concept!!! I feel good. I feel loved and affirmed. I feel real gratitude toward the person complimenting me. And I gain confidence. Owning compliments has changed my life and I thank my friend Richard for teaching me this tip that I’ll carry with me always.
Take in and own the next compliment you receive. Practice the technique and notice how good it feels to agree with your friends that you are beautiful, wonderful, talented and divine. The more you agree with the compliments given to you – gasp! – you might actually start believing them!
P.S. This skill takes lots of practicing — I still catch myself deflecting or rejecting compliments sometimes, since it is a deeply ingrained pattern. But please don’t get discouraged if it takes some work to get the technique down. Just keep at it and let the transformation to a healthier, happier you begin!
“When old patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” -Tuli Kupferberg