There is one subconscious habit that wreaks havoc on all communication and connection. It is a double edge sword that we say to friends, colleagues, and even strangers. On one side it gives the receiver a level of uncomfortableness or regret. On the other we completely diminish ourselves or our value.
It was the hardest thing I had to learn to stop doing – and I still struggle with it today.
The way to stop doing this is simple, but not easy. It is something that you have to make a conscious decision every single time to do.
THE TASK: learning how to take a compliment.
THE PROBLEM: contradicting the compliment you were given.
THE SOLUTION: learning to say “Thank you” without a trailer.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
For me, it started innocently enough. Someone would compliment my shoes (I have a things for shoes).
Instead of saying thank you, I would say something like, “Oh thanks, I’ve had these for years” or “Oh thank you, I got them on sale…”
Ugh. Nothing like basically saying, “Hey, thanks for the compliment, but these (and by extension me) aren’t worth it.”
Here’s another example. Say I worked really hard on a project and my boss told me I did a great job.
My old natural reaction would be something like, “Thanks, it was nothing” Well, that’s a lie, I put a lot of work into that.
Or maybe I would say, “Thanks, hopefully it will make a difference.” Awesome, how about I completely undermine the effort and belief I have in my work and its impact?
My best friend and I made a pact to help each other stop this terrible, self-depreciating habit. Every day we would remind each other, “Just say thank you and shut up”.
Now that sounds a bit bold to be telling each other to shut up, but we were serious about it. Why? Because that little “innocent” habit shifts perception. How you perceive yourself and how others perceive you.
When you kill a compliment, you are telling the other person
- You don’t value yourself or your work
- You don’t feel you are worth recognizing
- You do subpar work
- You have low self-esteem and even less confidence
Do you know who else you are telling these things to? You. That’s right. You are telling yourself that you are not worth a compliment.
“Hey subconscious, please don’t let someone recognize me for something positive. I’m not worthy. I just want to melt into the corner.” No.
No. No. No.
It also makes people uncomfortable. When I give a compliment and the other person goes out of their way to counter it, it’s painful to hear. I want to hug them because it makes me think they have such low self-esteem that they need a hug.
But I can’t hug you through this article. So instead, I’m going to give you the advice my best friend gave me: Say thank you then shut up.
If it is too hard to not say anything after the thank you, try turning it back on them.
“Thank you. I love your jacket.”
“Great job on the project”
“Thank you, I appreciate you noticing.”
See how easy that is? One caveat – if you return with a compliment, be sincere. If you can’t find anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
I know this is hard, it took me decades to recognize then break it. I think I may start a support group, it’s that detrimental to you and that hard to break. But in the meantime, practice with your family and friends. Let them know you are working on this and ask them to help you.
You can do this.
Once you master it, you can help other people learn to do this.
Then there will be a wonderful collection of people around you who stop devaluing themselves and compliment each other.
Just imagine, people saying nice things, other people accepting it and returning the sentiment, and everyone feels good.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…..
As a triple certified as a Professional Resume Writer, Career Coach and Social Media Brand Analyst I help amazing professionals get career happy.
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