THE BLOG
10/20/2014 06:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Take Compliments Seriously

Shutterstock / Denis Pepin

People are saying nice things to you all the time.

But I'm guessing you let most of them slide right past you. And some of you even deflect them ("Oh, no, it's not that great...") or immediately turn them around ("No, no, YOU are the genius...")

I'd like you to consider the possibility that you're being a little rude whenever you refuse a compliment.

First of all, the person is stating a truth. It may not be true for you, but it's true for them. If they think your story is the best one they've ever read or that your church solo moved them or that you look nice in that sweater, that's their business, and they get to be right.

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So acknowledge that they are right. And don't go around inflicting your opinion on them.

Just because you know you were a bit flat on the last chorus or that this sweater isn't quite what it used to be doesn't mean you need to tell them all about it.

Retain your empathy: remember the last time someone did that to you? You tried to say something nice and the person just wafted it away? Felt kind of icky, huh?

Here's the other reason to take compliments seriously: they offer you valuable market research.

If someone says they find you fun or thought-provoking or nice or smart as a whip or inspiring, then use that language in your next brochure/email/elevator speech.

Imagine you're at a holiday punch bowl standing next to someone you'd really like to impress and they ask you the oft-dreaded question, "So, what do you do?"

You may answer, "How kind of you to ask."

I'm a singer. I sing at weddings and other church events, and I also sing with a group that visits retirement communities. Someone recently said my work was 'uplifting' -- which made me feel great, because that's really what I want to do -- lift people's spirits."

Nice, huh? You not only described your work but also conveyed the flavor and tone of your work and some of the truth about who you are.

It's not bragging if it's true.

P.S. This same strategy applies to criticism. If someone says your work is overwrought or shallow or kinda pitchy, dawg, then thank them for sharing their thoughts with you and DO NOT argue with them. Yes, your ego will flare up a bit. So go punch a pillow. But then remember to incorporate the information into your spiel.

So your next email might say something like, "I'm teaching a new class that teaches sign language to 9-18 month-old children. Some people might find this work superfluous or overly precious, but research shows that offering young children additional means of communication increases SAT scores by over 30 percent."

(I completely made up that last part, by the way.)

See how acknowledging the truth clarifies your message?

Keep a running list of all the compliments you get and see what the trends are. Use those words to communicate the truth of you.

Here's a compliment to start your list: you are good and brave.

photo credit: DG Jones via photopin cc