‘A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil.’
Alright peeps, I think we’ve spent enough time patting other people on the back. We are all now fully aware of the benefits and positive effects of praise in reinforcing good traits and improving self-perception. We’ve practiced the art of giving genuine praise and how to find opportunities to share. It’s come now to the best part of the program, which is accepting the praise we receive from others with grace, dignity, and equal appreciation.
We have discussed the benefits praise can offer. It can help cement positive traits or behaviors or affirm certain aspects of ourselves we try to highlight. When offered genuinely and sincerely, praise is one of the best gifts we can give someone and one of the best we can receive. Now if someone were to go to the trouble of finding something you really wanted or needed and wrapped it all up in pretty paper and a bow and was so happy and honest in giving it to you as a gift, would you want to give it back or toss it aside or reject it? Thankfully (hopefully) the answer is no and we don’t really see that sort of behavior in real life, but it is definitely very much the same when we do not know how to accept the praise of others.
Why Do We Struggle to Accept Praise?
As I’ve mentioned certain cultures make accepting praise particularly difficult, especially amongst Asian culture. It is simply not in our nature to accept kind words from others, and we are much more comfortable deflecting them or redirecting them towards others. Many people stumble when accepting praise though for varied other reasons.
One of the most common reasons we hesitate to accept praise is the fear of appearing conceited. The concern is that by accepting the praise of others we are, by extension, praising ourselves, which can seem conceited or smug. By accepting praise it may seem as though we were seeking it to begin with or that perhaps we were expecting it. By appearing hesitant or struggling to accept it we remain humble.
A sure sign of cynicism when it comes to accepting praise may be in that we fear by accepting praise we become ‘indebted’ to the person who gave it and will be expected to return it in the near future. This is closely related to another reason, which is that we may doubt the sincerity or motive of the person who is speaking to us. We do not want to feel as though we may owe the person anything in any way or we may already be suspicious of them and expect a request for a favor to soon follow should we choose to accept their kind words. To be fair this fear may be legitimate at times depending on the situation as there will definitely be times when some people’s kind words really do mask hidden agendas. But to suspect every opportunity and occurrence of such is certainly no better and may reflect an overly negative or cynical worldview.
If we truly feel that we don’t deserve the praise being offered we will definitely offer some resistance in acceptance. This could stem from honestly not doing much to deserve praise but if that is the case this is more the concern of the person offering, as we saw from yesterday. It is the responsibility of the one offering praise to be genuine and sincere. On the receiving end however this could be affected by our self-esteem. If we have a low self-esteem we may struggle to accept compliments even when it is honestly and sincerely deserved. If you cannot believe what they say about you because you don’t see it in yourself, your instinct may be to doubt, deflect, or counter it.
What Do We Do When We Struggle to Accept Praise?
Sociological studies have placed our general reactions towards praise into three categories: acceptance, deflection, and rejection. Most people remain within deflection as the two extremes of the spectrum could seem unappealing. A full on acceptance of praise may, as I mentioned, seem conceited or smug. Most of us possess the social graces to not go off the deep end on the other side either, as a full on rejection is rude and makes you seem mistrusting and makes the giver feel awkward and uncomfortable. There are a couple ways in which we do this to try and diffuse the compliment as if it were a ticking time bomb of undeserved confidence.
We can deny the compliment, rejecting what the person says and questioning their judgement or assessment. This is a common one that, though we may feel is harmless, can actually affect the person who complimented you. They may be shy or uncomfortable themselves, and this was a way of them branching out or working on their own abilities with praise. By questioning them you may make them feel even more uncomfortable. This could also portray you as someone who is mistrusting and can further decrease the chances of you receiving any praise in the future from that person or anyone else.
We may ignore the praise altogether. Either we honestly did not hear it or did not know it was a compliment or we are purposely turning a deaf ear to their words because it is easier than dealing with it head on. This could make you seem clueless or offend them as no one wants to feel ignored, especially when they are going out of their way to offer you some kind and encouraging words that you and they know would benefit both of you.
When we receive praise we feel we do not deserve we may be tempted to deflect it away from ourselves and towards someone else. If the person you are referring to was indeed a major contribution to your efforts and deserves the praise this is of course absolutely fine after you have accepted the praise yourself, not in lieu of. Chances are, despite the fact that it may have been a group effort, you were still part of that group and did have a part in its success. By deflecting the praise you are in effect decreasing your own self-worth and devaluing yourself. Take the moment to recognize that you were influential as well and accept the praise.
Sometimes to avoid those feelings of indebtedness towards the praiser we reflect either the same or a different compliment back to them. This is a way of indirectly brushing aside the compliment and instead reflecting the attention back to the one giving the praise. You may think this is okay as it still creates positivity, but keep in mind that often in the rush and hurry to redirect the attention the actual praise given is…well, less than sincere. You may think that by ‘returning the favor’ you are actually being polite, but if you think about it, it could imply very different things. For one, it may display that rather than taking the time to appreciate the praise and express gratitude you were too busy trying to come up with one of your own, and it may be less specific and more shallow and certainly less deserved. For another, if it becomes very apparent that this is a reflex for you, it diminishes the value of your praise as it seems more mechanical and autonomous than organic and spontaneous.
Perhaps the most passive-aggressive and least constructive method would be for us to minimize the praise given to us. This is best exemplified whenever you see someone who looks particularly well put-together that day and you try to compliment them as such and they respond ‘Oh this? Really? I think I look terrible. I just woke up and put on the first thing I could see. Teehee.’ Look this is clearly a lie. Let’s not try to play each other for fools. Just take the damn compliment Jesus. We know what this is trying to imply. It is trying to deflect the praise while at the same time opening the door for even bigger, greater praise. What we are trying to convey here is that if our very least effort is already praise-worthy, imagine what we would get if we actually tried and how wonderful and amazing we must be to be capable of so much with so little effort! Please. This is false modesty and frustrates the one trying to give praise and puts you in a rather nasty light as well.
How Do I Accept Praise?
Say ‘THANK YOU’ for one! It’s honestly really almost that simple. Set aside your pride or ego, don’t worry about how you’ll be seen or perceived, and the very first thing straight out of your mouth when receiving genuine and sincere praise should always be ‘THANK YOU’. Try it with me. ‘Thank you’. Okay. Now let’s move on.
I want you to understand that no bad will come from accepting a compliment. You didn’t come up with the compliment yourself. You didn’t ask for it. I certainly hope you weren’t fishing for them. This was an honest gift from someone who cared enough to share with you so you should not feel any guilt in accepting it. Also remember that being proud of your work does not make you any more arrogant or any less humble. A little pride in a job well done is good because it is internal motivation to continue. We don’t need to go over-inflating our egos with every little compliment but we can certainly benefit from a healthy controlled diet of praise. It is possible to remain humble while receiving praise with dignity, graciousness, and gratitude.
Remember also that the one giving praise (if sincere) isn’t looking for anything in return, so don’t feel the immediate need to find some elaborate way to thank them or to reflect back onto them. They are happy simply to recognize someone for their contributions and the best way to support and encourage that is to be truly grateful and appreciative. A simple ‘thank you’ definitely suffices to portray this but you can of course embellish to an extent.
Letting them know that not only are you grateful for their praise but how much it means to you would definitely be a welcome way of receiving praise. If it honestly made your day or encouraged you to continue on, let them know the positive effect their words had. It could encourage them to give you praise again in the future as you continue to succeed or it may encourage them to spread the positivity elsewhere. Letting them know why their particular words means so much to you is also a wonderful way to thank someone. If you particularly respect their opinion let them know and know why. If you both happen to be in the same field and you admire their work, letting them know that receiving praise from someone they admire just spreads the warm feelings everywhere.
Receiving praise with a sense of dignity and grace is something we should all exercise and be able to do as well and as often as giving praise. You’ve been made well aware of the promises of praise both as the giver and the receiver and now you can actively and enthusiastically engage in this exchange. Next time we’ll discuss praise’s twisted cousin, the backhanded compliment. We’ll discuss why we might sometimes give them, how to avoid them, and my personal favorite, backhanded compliments I’ve received or those around me have. This should be a hoot and a half.
Man: 79 Loneliness: 20