As my belly has expanded over the past nine months, I’ve experienced total wonderment looking at my changing body. Apparently, I’m not the only one.
Pregnancy has brought with it an attention that I never would have imagined. With pregnancy, I’ve learned, everyone feels particularly compelled to comment on your physical state. Let it be known that I’m not complaining about this – I just find it fascinating. In a culture that tends to be so uncomfortable with the idea of weight gain and so quick to bash the belly, pregnancy is a totally different story.
If I added up the number of times I’ve been told I look “cute” in the past week, it would certainly be larger the sum total of the times I’ve been told that across the course of my life. Meanwhile, while I adore the experience of pregnancy, as a full term pregnant woman, I can’t say I always feel cute (though sometimes I certainly do!).
While my inclination at times is to tell the complimenter how I really feel (be it swollen, icky, sore, etc.), I’ve been using this experience to master the art of accepting a compliment. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned that rejecting someone’s expression of praise hurts the person, me, and the relationship. Who wants to be told their wrong (directly or indirectly) when trying to be nice?
I’ve come up with the following tips for accepting a compliment, and they’ve made the art of graciousness much easier.
1. Say, ”Thank you.” Then stop. That’s it. With accepting compliments, less is often more. This is particularly useful when you have a strong urge to negate what the person has just said.
2. Say, “Wow, aren’t you kind! I appreciate that.” This response expresses three things, all of which help in further developing a relationship. It accepts the compliment. It reciprocates the compliment (telling the person they are kind). And it communicates how you feel to receive it (appreciative).
3. Practice with people close to you. Sometimes it’s easier to challenge yourself to accept compliments from those close to you, before moving on to the cashier at the pharmacy or your c0-worker. Let your family or close friends know that you’re working on accepting compliments so that they can call you out when you slip (or, hopefully, praise you further when succeed!).
4. Clue the person in to the details. If someone says that she loves your belt, spread the love by telling her about the great thrift store in your neighborhood where you picked it up. If someone compliments how you incorporated humor in the presentation you just gave, let him know how you were inspired by a particularly great speaker you saw last year. This kind of response helps establish a nice connection.
5. Respond by saying, “That makes me feel _______.” Possible emotions could be appreciated, understood, happy, honored, touched, and so on. Letting the person know how their words made you feel will make them feel better. And who doesn’t love that kind of feel-good loop!
6. Acknowledge others if appropriate. If other people were involved in what you are getting praised for, share that! First, thank the person, and then clue them in to who helped out. For example, “I really appreciate you saying that! I worked hard, and I also couldn’t have done it without my team.”
7. Practice in the mirror. Cheesy? Totally. Useful? Totally again. Some people I’ve worked with didn’t realize that they actually cringe when given a compliment until they started watching their own reactions in a mirror. Once they were more aware, practicing their responses while having to face themselves only made them that much more comfortable.
8. Compliment the other person. But don’t overdo it. It’s great to turn the love around, but just make sure you’re not doing it at your own expense or being over the top. Do not respond with a comparison (e.g. “Thanks for saying you like my haircut, but yours is honestly so much cuter!”). It diminishes their compliment (it’s almost a way of one-upping, actually) and makes you look uncomfortable and potentially ungrateful.
9. Say, “It’s great to hear that because I respect you so much.” When it’s appropriate, and true, this is a great response. It offers a reciprocal compliment, but doesn’t negate what the person is saying nor take the focus off of you.
10. Focus on the body language. Accepting a compliment doesn’t stop at the words — body language is especially important too. Notice your stance and facial expressions when you receive praise. If you’re crossing your arms, folding yourself smaller, looking down, or (please no!) rolling your eyes, your body is not accepting the compliment, even if you’re mouth is.
What is it like for you to accept compliments? What other tips can you share?