07/18/2012 04:36 pm ET | Updated Sep 17, 2012

Accepting Appreciation: The Gift That Keeps Giving

I'm not sure where I learned it, but I know when I did learn the concept of accepting a compliment. I never learned it at home or in school or at church. I learned it from a mentor right after I quit drinking alcohol 23 years ago.

In my late 20s I was incredibly self-centered. All I thought about was myself and my troubles or my achievements. My grandmother, who had a black belt in the 12-step program of Al-anon, once suggested I do volunteer work, which might possibly help my extreme self-centeredness. This of course isn't true for all who drink, but for me it was. As the saying goes, I'm not much, but I'm all I think about. It seems addiction can bring with it a case of oversized ego matched only by insecurity.

Somehow that often seems to play into receiving a lovingly-placed compliment or acknowledgement. I was recently reading up about author Steven Covey and his work and recent death. A list of his quotes is also a delightful reminder of his adage that living by high principles can create a truly effective life. This quote of his stood out to me, "To receive gratitude with grace is a form of gratitude by itself, and not always an easy art to master."

When I was coming out of my fog of alcohol, I was mentored by a wonderful woman who helped me learn to be more principled in my interactions with others. She taught me two primary qualities: to listen first (why we have two ears and one mouth) and to accept a compliment. I remember when and where I was when she taught me that. I was in a coffee shop in Chico, Calif. We were having a simple cup of coffee at a diner. But some sort of miracle happened that morning. I learned the art of receiving when someone is giving a precious gift, a compliment.

To this day I observe my temptation to sputter and deny what is being said or offered. But ultimately I've learned receiving a compliment gives it a landing pad. Talking over it because I feel embarrassed or less than deserving of it is akin to hitting it back to the other person, like I'm holding a bat, rather than a catcher's mitt.

It's always interesting to watch people's reactions when they receive a compliment. Whether they are able to graciously receive it or whether they are not, I don't judge. But for me, giving a well-received compliment feels delicious.

Thank you Steven Covey for your work and your astute observations on that very important topic.