Someone at work approaches you after a meeting and tells you that you did a really great job on a project. What do you say?
Are you more likely to say, “Thank you. I worked very hard on that project and I am proud of how it all came together”? Or do you say, “Oh, it was nothing”?
A good friend tells you that you look very nice and they love your new outfit. What do you say?
Do you say something like, “This old outfit? I’ve had it for years”?
Why can’t we say, “THANK YOU”?
Why can’t we take credit for our accomplishments and acknowledge when someone is complimenting us?
There was an interesting article May 4th in the Wall Street Journal on this topic of accepting praise, Why Do Compliments Cause So Much Grief? The author, Mick Wiggins, commented that we have no difficulty acknowledging compliments from those people we crave them from: peers, bosses, the opposite sex, wives, and even strangers some times.
Yet, he noted that we do have trouble sometimes listening to our loved ones and closest friends.
My mom will be delighted to tell you all about this. Recently, I told her about a flattering note I’d received from an old (male) friend. And she shrieked in exasperation: “For years, I’ve been telling you what he just said, but you never bother to listen to me”.
I had to smile when I read this because I don’t know how many times I have said that same thing in frustration to my family and friends!
Another interesting point the author brings up is that we only hear what we want to hear. If we are feeling really secure, we have less difficulty accepting the praise. During times of self-doubt and insecurity, we will react very differently and either misinterpret the compliment and the intent, or put ourselves down instead of graciously acknowledging the compliment.
In my recent interview with Marci Shimoff on Head Over Heels Women’s Business Radio, Marci suggested that we have what’s called a negativity bias. She calls it the Velcro Teflon Syndrome. What this means is that we tend to Velcro to us the negative things that happen to us. The positive things are more like Teflon and tend to slide off.
She gives an example of how you are at work and during the course of the day, you got ten compliments and one criticism. When you drive home at night, what do you remember?
The criticism, right?
We need to reverse the Velcro Teflon Syndrome so that when we receive positive feedback on our work, for example, we say, “Thank you. I really worked hard on it and I’m glad you appreciate it”, instead of “Oh, it was nothing”.
I think that when we listen carefully to the compliments and positive feedback that come our way from anyone and acknowledge the praise, it can actually boost our self esteem. That being said, we need to be mindful about the process. Instead of letting the compliment slide off, velcro it. Resist the impulse to shrug is off and put yourself down. Listen, register the compliment, and accept the praise.
Listen and acknowledge and recognize that you deserve the praise!