Building New Habits Is Hard, Let’s Do This Small One Together

I’m a creative, a communicator, a storyteller. If you map out anything I do, the path is all winding and it’s drawn with every color of the rainbow.

I live with a retired Chief (U.S. Navy) who went in with a very Type A personality. His map is a straight line in black and white.

It takes me months to even begin to form a good habit. He makes a decision to do so and that habit is now ingrained in his essence.

So I get it, some people are really good at simply deciding and they now do a new habit religiously.

Then there are others like me. I decide, I really do. Then I think. Then ‘rationalize’. Then bargain. Then procrastinate. Then admonish. Then go to bed and repeat the whole process over again some other day.

Making a new habit is HARD.

But it is worth it, you just need to keep going.

“Fall Down seven times, get up eight”

Japanese proverb

Maybe there is a habit you want to create, yet it keeps kicking your rear end. Let’s try this. Let’s start with a smaller one.

You can do a smaller one! I know you can. Here’s one I challenge you to do for a week. Seven days, you can give me seven days of just one thing, right? Heck yeah, you can!

This one little habit sounds simple, yet it may get you close to biting your tongue off. No one will notice it, but they will feel it.

It’s right up there with James Clear’s straightforward advice:

“Shut up and do your reps”

James Clear

No reps involved! See, it’s getting better already, right?

It’s the ‘shut up’ part. But only in one very specific situation: when you’re given a compliment.

Here’s the challenge – when you are given a compliment, your new habit is two part:

  1. Say thank you (and mean it)
  2. Stop talking

That’s it.

This was one of the hardest habits I learned to break. I used to counter every compliment I ever got.

I like your shoes” – “thanks, I’ve had them forever…

“I love your bag” – “thanks, I got it on sale…

“Your hair looks really good” – “thanks, for once it decided to act right…”

What I was doing was devaluing myself. Audibly telling the world I didn’t deserve a compliment.

And it made people uncomfortable. Who wants to give a compliment to someone who combats you? Those responses were putting down their compliments (you like an old pair of shoes? You like a cheap bag? Although that one may not always be a devalue, especially if you get an amazing, steal deal – then you have to share, I mean, who doesn’t love a great score?).

The other uncomfortable part is, the compliment giver may take those comments as fishing for more. In reality, my comments were more of a neon flashing light pointing the way to my insecurities.

What if saying nothing makes you uncomfortable? Here are some alternatives:

  1. Say thank you – give a genuine compliment in return
  2. Say thank you – take a breath – introduce a new subject

The main point is to not cancel your compliment. I think there has been a significant decline in the number of compliments given, let’s see if we can turn that tide and not only give more compliments, but accept more, as well.


Are you ready to take the challenge? Start today! Then keep me posted. And if you need any encouragement – email me – Lisa (dot) McDonald (at) Career Polish (dot) com. You can do this!


I help amazing people get career happy and companies stay true to brand.

Coaching: Career, Emotional Intelligence, Confidence, Business, Brand, Yoga

Click here – – to find out more.

All opinions and views expressed in this article are my own, unless attributed. They’re normally pretty spot-on (because I’m obsessive about career topics and communications). The humor sprinkled in is Mr. B approved, my dog who thinks I’m hilarious (maybe because I’m his meal ticket).

My Anti-Networking Secret Weapon: Shoes

I am a shoe freak.  When traveling most people get trinkets with the name of the local on them, I get shoes.  Boots from Dallas, killer pumps from Ocala – no matter where I have been I have a pair of shoes from there.

My grandmother started it.  When I was growing up she had a full size walk in closet lined in shoes, rows and rows of shoes.  It was heaven.  She knew every shoe store in the tri-state area.  I have proudly continued what she began.  It is one of the things I am known for – my shoes and boots.

I will admit, I do not always love networking.  Sometimes on the walk in phrases like “necessary evil” pop into my mind.   Then there are events that are just not good.

You know the ones; you are expecting one thing and end up in an environment that is completely different.  Whether that environment is a low turnout, the feeling of a singles bar or a complete different venue than what was offered.

This is when I find it difficult to network because there is a disconnect in my mind and the environment. I call it being in the ‘anti-networking’ mode.  You are there, but you just do not want to do it.

That is when I use my secret weapon: shoes.  I start looking at people’s shoes and I make a game out of it.

I will walk up to someone and compliment their shoes.  I do not try to talk about business, certainly not mine; I talk to people about something as random as their shoes.  I give a genuine compliment that is personal to them.  It is amazing how many people are thrown off by compliments to their shoes.

Instead of being approached with a horrible networking line or a fake conversation, they hear “I love your shoes” or “my son would love your shoes”.  Yes, my son has inherited the shoe lover gene.

This leads to fun conversations, real conversations, relaxed conversations that take the pressure off ‘networking’.  It helps draw in the introverts, exclude the creepy card handers and forms a sort of unique dynamic.

Not every networking event is going to be a business success.  But that does not mean that you cannot have fun and engage people from a different perspective – through a genuine compliment.

Sometimes when I run into those same people at other events they greet me warmly with, “It’s the shoe lady”.  That works for me because if nothing else, I did make a connection.

Isn’t that the whole point of networking?

The Importance of Accepting Criticism – and Praise

thank youNo matter what your profession, industry or position at some point in your career you will be on the receiving end of two types of communication: criticism and praise.

I have come to realize that most people only focus on the criticism.  There is a great deal of time and articles written on how to take it, give it and use it.

Criticism is important.  From a general perspective it allows you to gain insight from a different viewpoint, identify areas in which you can improve and it can strengthen your communication with the person delivering the criticism.

Seen from the positive aspect, even though the process may be painful, it can be a benefit to your skills and ultimately your career.

Then there is praise.

We may be getting better at receiving criticism; however, I see a lot of room for improvement in taking a compliment.

Your reaction to praise can actually negate the compliment.  It can make person complimenting you uncomfortable and hesitant to praise you again.

Responding in a way that is overly surprised or dismissive can send the message that you do not believe that you deserve the compliment and to a greater degree – you have little regard for your own value.

If you do not value yourself, how can others?

The two step way to best receive praise:

Say thank you
Stop talking

Not “Thank you, but….”
Not “Thank you, it was nothing…”
Not “Thank you, I didn’t really do anything…”

Just thank you.

On the other side of the coin, do not milk it either.  They already gave you a compliment.

Not “Thank you, I worked really hard….”
Not “Thank you, I killed myself on that project…”
Not “Thank you, I didn’t think anyone noticed….”

Just thank you.

It is not always comfortable to deliver criticism, do not make it difficult for someone to give you a compliment.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Brand Strategist & Career Coach
Certified Professional Resume Writer

Try a Little Tenderness

lexi lovingI am definitely a dog person.  No matter what my day it is made better with my dogs.  If I am having a horrible day they know.  That’s when they nuzzle and look up at me like, “Your day may be bad but you’re awesome.”  You just can’t beat that.

When my day is great – they make it better.  I think they know that too.  It is almost like they are saying, “Congratulations!  I think we should play to celebrate!”

I am also a big believer in gratitude.  Every day I give thanks for all that has come into my life, is in now and yet to come.  I also believe in kindness and positive behavior.

Have you ever told your dog or any dog that they are pretty?  If you are a dog person you know exactly what I am talking about.  They can be across the room and you tell them “you are a pretty boy” and what happens? They wag their tail.  They know.  They can sense your kindness and tenderness.  They accept it and it makes you feel good.

What I find amazing is people, even non dog people, are more willing and free to tell a dog that they are pretty before they would even consider giving themselves a compliment or nice word.

We do not praise or recognize ourselves enough. When was the last time you accomplished something and told yourself, “Self, you did good.”?  If you had to ask what year it was that is a bad sign.

Not only do we not tell ourselves that we did good, we also really, really stink at taking compliments.

Dogs aren’t like that.  When you tell them they are pretty they don’t turn around, put a paw over their snout and say, “oh no, I look like hell today and I know this collar makes me look fat.”  They just don’t do that.  They wag their tail in saying, “thank you.”  Simple.  The end. Period.

Try living a bit like your dog today.  Give kindness just because you are there and accept compliments with a simple thank you.  We all deserve a little tenderness.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW


As I wrote this I had the song from the title running through my head.  It is from one of my favorite movies of all time – bonus – can you name the artist and movie?  Double bonus – do you remember the scene?

Learn To Say Thank You and Then Just Shut Up

It is kind of amazing how many people are terrible at taking compliments.  I will admit, I am one – however it is something that I actively work on improving.

Of course it helps that I have friends that will immediately jump my case if I say anything other than “Thank you” after a compliment.  Honestly, it has helped me.  It is easier to feel uncomfortable for a moment rather than have to listen to them for an hour lecturing me.  You know who you are….

Let’s face it, there are not enough compliments given these days.  I am not sure why, I mean it is easy to do, is a wonderful feeling on the receiving end and it takes so little time.  Maybe because us bad-compliment-receivers have ruined it for the compliment givers.

For my fellow bad-compliment-receiver let me give you a run down on why it is important for you to take a compliment well and how to do so.


Why you should take a compliment well

  1. Someone      thought enough about you to give you praise.
  2. Someone      has recognized something about you.
  3. In      downplaying a compliment you are downplaying yourself.
  4. You      are underselling yourself.
  5. In a      way you are insulting the compliment giver.
  6. You      may be making the compliment giver feel uncomfortable.


Let’s look at a scenario:


John: “Great job on that project Tom”

Tom: “Aw, thanks, but I really didn’t do anything actually I’m surprised the whole thing was pulled off.”


Now John could be thinking that either Tom actually didn’t have anything to do with it, wasn’t proud of the project himself, or may even feel uncomfortable at that moment because honestly, how to do you follow that up?

How about this – what if John was setting up an opportunity to tell Tom about a new, better position opening that he wants to give to Tom? After that downplay maybe he is second guessing that idea.


How to take a compliment well

  1. Say      “Thank you”
  2. Shut      mouth.


Yep, it really is that simple.  Now, as a bad-compliment-receiver I know how hard it is to stop after the “you” but it is necessary.  Bite your tongue, put food in your mouth, take a drink, make yourself cough – whatever you need to do but seriously – shut up.

I have given compliments before and the receiver is so uncomfortable receiving it that they turn the whole situation into a disaster.  It made me want to run.  It also made me feel extremely uncomfortable; I mean if they hold such a low self-image of themselves then no matter what I say it could turn into a game of “poor pity me” and I don’t like that game.

I think it important to give recognition.  If you have earned it learn to take it or else you will find that people stop giving it because they don’t want to hear the possible “pity me” or have you disrespect them in basically telling them they were wrong for complimenting you.

That’s another thing, if I give someone a compliment on a job well done and they completely downplay it or tell me how they don’t deserve it I might start to think that maybe I was wrong about the whole thing.  People don’t like feeling like they are wrong.

Someone once told me that they feel like they are bragging if they don’t down play it.  It took me a while to wrap my head around that one.  I mean, how are you bragging if someone else said it?

Something else that helps in learning how to accept compliments – give them more often.  Honest, small compliments throughout the day can make an amazing difference to someone and it can really make your day.  I find this is a sure fire way to beat the crappy day syndrome.

If I’ve had a particularly crappy day then I make it a point to give compliments.  Just because my day sucks doesn’t mean I have to share that with anyone else.  I’ll be in the grocery store and if I see an elderly woman with a nice blouse I will say something like, “What a beautiful blouse – it is a lovely color on you.”  Or maybe there is a dad there with a couple of kids who are behaving (so rare these days at least at the grocery stores I have been to) and I will tell him, “You kids are so well behaved.”

It is amazing how a compliment can make someone’s day.  Normally the grocery people are taken by surprise and “thank you” is an immediate reaction but their stun slows any discrediting remarks and I make sure to move on before they get a chance.  It saves the moment.  They got a nice compliment, I have the warm and fuzzies – the crappy day is lessening.

Today if anyone gives you a compliment make it a conscious effort to do the following:

Say “Thank you”

Shut UP!



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.