4 ways to take a compliment

I wrote this post before I accidentally discovered (on Saturday Night Live no less) that today, January 24, is National Compliment Day.

Like most people, I imagine you’re way better at giving a compliment than your are at receiving one.

A case in point: I ran into an colleague this week who I hadn’t seen in years. As we were catching up, she put her hand on my arm and said, “I loved your piece in Psychology Today about you and your father. Wow.”

I mumbled a “thanks” and immediately said, “And how are you?” as if I couldn’t stand one more instant in the headlights of her attention.

Later, as I reflected on this, I thought “How strange, I work hard, as most artists do, yet as soon as I get a moment of attention on the work, the first thing I do is kick this attention away as fast as possible.”

Join me this year in this practice of learning how to take a compliment, if you suffer from this same affliction.

Here are 4 beginner steps and an extra credit. When someone says “I liked your painting, story, song, needlepoint, or so on,” this is how you can respond:

  1. Say “Thank you.” And then PAUSE. (This pause is crucial. It's precisely what I did not do with my colleague.)
  2. Say “Thank you.” PAUSE. Then say: “Your comment means a lot to me.”
  3.  Add “What did you like about it?”
  4. A variation on the above is to say: “Thanks for noticing.” And then don’t change the subject.
  5. For extra credit, you can add “Yes, wasn’t that great! I was so pleased with how that turned out” if it doesn’t make you faint.

Today, in honor of National Compliment Day, find an opportunity to give a compliment and see how the other person responds. If he kicks it away, like I did, you can always add “no really, it was great.” The next time you’re the recipient of praise, see if you can just stand in the limelight for a few more seconds than you usually do. Happy National Compliment Day.

Marion, by Guy Rose, oil on canvas, 38.1 x 45.72 cm, private collection.