When someone compliments you how do you react?
Do you say thank you?
Do you shrug or do you discount the compliment altogether?
Someone compliments your dress and you reply with “oh this is old thing, I’ve had it for ages”. They didn’t ask anything about your dress they just said they liked it. Someone comments that you are looking really well or perhaps your skin is lovely and clear and you start to feel uncomfortable, perhaps your face flushes or you find yourself looking away.
What’s so wrong with accepting a compliment these days?
Is our reaction based on who is delivering the compliment?
Is it based on where you are at the time?
Is our response affected by what we’re wearing and how comfortable we are in the outfit?
Or perhaps the time of day has an influence?
Our society has been so conditioned that the simple act of accepting a compliment sends most of us into a tail spin. Our unconscious brain freaks out and the inner dialogue is asking “what do they want?” People don’t speak to each other or acknowledge each other in the street these days. In happens perhaps in smaller communities, or country towns, but in a big city like Sydney where I live, its quite rare for one stranger to acknowledge or speak to another stranger. Yet, as humans we are hard-wired to belong in communities. We even have an inbuilt fear of not belonging as we worked out a millennium ago that living in communities increased our chances of survival.
I’m quite happy, confident and comfortable to compliment someone, particularly for a clothing choice. I have complimented men at dancing classes and at the bus stop for wearing great shoes. Ok, I confess I have a slight shoe obsession, but that’s not the point. When a compliment is given to us, we find ourselves getting self conscious about appearance or how we are feeling. The simple compliment can make us feel uplifted and happy, yet the same compliment can trigger a whole inner dialogue of what the true meaning behind their compliment was or wondering whether the person even genuine. If it’s a stranger who delivers the compliment, our fear response often kicks into overdrive too and thoughts like “weirdo” or “sicko” flash through our mind.
Or are we the weirdos or sickos? Or is it even deeper than that. Is our own self worth and inner dialogue so skewed that when a simple compliment is delivered, it’s so left field of how we perceive ourself that we can’t even accept the compliment anymore. Is accepting a compliment so aligned with the “I’m not good enough” voice on repeat in your head that it’s inconceivable to let it in? The brain is wired to find evidence that supports our beliefs. If you think you’re not good enough, your brain will find evidence to support this in the comments that people make, the conversation you have with yourself and the opinion – both spoken and unspoken. Ofcourse the unspoken opinion of someone else is really us making up what we think they may be saying or thinking because we really don’t know what is going on in someone else’s head. If your inner voice is positive, upbeat and is complimentary to you, letting in someone else’s comment that confirms what you believe about yourself is easy. We hear the compliment and accept it with a simple smile and a thank you. There is no further rumination in your head about hidden meanings. It’s a simple thank you.
We have become a society of cynics who question even the basics of politeness for fear of what it may mean, what it may cost us to reciprocate and how sinister the deliverer may be.
Think about that next time someone compliments you on something you’re wearing or a new hairdo or how well your looking. Instead of flipping it off, just say thank you. The simple act of saying thank you without justification or counter comment. Thank you really is the only response you need. Try it. In time your inner dialogue will catch with what the outer world is seeing.
My top two tips for accepting compliments:
- Don’t over think the compliment – simply respond with thank you
- Do some work on your own self-worth so a compliment isn’t so misaligned with your self perception
Personally, I give compliments to strangers regularly, but perhaps I get away with it because I am a middle-aged short woman, or maybe because I am genuine in my delivery. Who knows!