One of my best friends taught me something a long time ago - the beauty and importance of receiving a compliment well. I remember being in a meeting and our coworker said, “I absolutely love that outfit. You look great!” and her smiling and simply saying, “Thank you!” I know that seems like such a small thing - a non-story - but I was floored. I remember looking at her and thinking all the things I would have said - I would have deflected or self-deprecated or talked about how inexpensive my shirt was, anything to keep someone from focusing more attention on me. But I noticed that, in the moments after that small exchange, the mood was positive and friendly and respectful, and I realized what a valuable lesson it had been - just saying “thank you!” seals that interaction between you and the complimenter as a positive, encouraging moment.

I have a theory that, those of us who make the best Right Hands would much prefer to go unnoticed or be behind-the-scenes than be center stage. This says a lot about our personality as a whole, but if this is you, this may mean that you have trouble with compliments. I know, for me, it’s because I deflect attention like teflon. If someone says to me, “You look nice today!,” my first instinct is to say “Ugh, I feel gross - I didn’t shower this morning.” I hate people looking at me, and would rather blend in than stand out. Unfortunately, what I've learned is that this reaction can actually read in a few (unwanted) ways; instead of a shield, it becomes a spotlight.

  1. Aloofness - I know it sounds strange, because this *may* not be how you are feeling, but quick deflection of compliments may read as “Your words mean nothing and I am above that."

  2. Inauthenticity - One of the things I hear a lot of women do after receiving a compliment is to return it - "You're amazing!" returned as "No, YOU'RE amazing!" This deflection may seem fun and goofy in the moment (and in some circles of close friends, certainly can be) but has little to back it up when you're simply parroting what you just heard.

  3. Powerlessness - When someone thanks you or points out your job well done, and you deflect it - either putting it on a team member, or giving credit to your surroundings or partner, you're handing that power over to someone else. Instead of bringing others into that positive moment, you have minimized your contribution and what you brought to the task. 

Next time someone offers you a compliment, just say "thank you." It. Will. Feel. Weird. I know. But power through it, and the next time you do it, it will be easier. It may not feel less weird, but it will be easier. Note the responses you get - I promise they will surprise you.

Beth Dekker