I can’t remember who brought it to my attention, or why, but this year I’ve been working hard on accepting compliments graciously.
Like too many other women, deflecting compliments was a habit so ingrained I barely noticed it.
You think I did well on the project? My teammates were amazing. You heard I landed a nice writing gig? Everyone gets lucky sometimes. You like my shoes? I have terrible taste—they were practically the only ones the store had in my size!
(Okay, I have huge feet. That last one was probably true.)
But big feet aside, deflecting compliments by chalking up any success to luck, or other people, or just dismissing it entirely is disingenuous (at best) or self-sabotage (at worst). It usually doesn’t make the complimenter feel that great either: they’re trying to pay you a compliment, after all.
I’ve made a lot of progress in this area over the past year, largely because once I was aware of what I was doing, I could (usually) bite my tongue hard enough to stop. But it’s still tough.
When I was reading The Confidence Code last summer, I was thrilled to see the authors not only decry this habit, but suggest a simple, straightforward response that works for every variety of compliment. They say:
We have to find ways to take in compliments and own our accomplishments rather than relying on dismissals and assertions of luck and self-deprecation. Keep it simple if you must. When praised, reply, “Thank you. I appreciate that.” Use it. It’s surprising how odd, and how powerful, saying those five words will feel.
If you recognize that you, too, have the tendency to deflect or dismiss compliments, (and if you’re a woman, the odds are that you do) practice saying these five words out loud.
And when the time comes, use them.