January 21, 2019
For most of my life, I was terrible at receiving compliments.
One big reason is because, deep inside, I was my own worst critic. I knew how the presentation was supposed to go. I knew when I’d hit the ball harder, farther. And I also knew how much work I’d put in as well as how below my potential I really was.
After coaching and inspiring 1000’s of people, I have found that I’m not alone.
Most people are terrible at receiving compliments and that’s detrimental to their own well-being as well as to the compliment-givers.
In this week’s blog, I want to show you how compliments are mutually beneficial – for the giver and the receiver, and how your response to them can really spotlight the giver and give them value.
I used to always tell people, “It’s nothing.” Part of the reason was that I learned some twisted idea about modesty when I was a kid. It was something like you’re never supposed to take credit for anything.
As I grew older, I actually discovered that I was really talented and skilled at something. Most of the time, that meant that I could produce something in minutes that would have taken someone else hours.
“It’s nothing” seems more honest than taking credit. After all, it was a simple task for me. Why should I act like it was a big deal?
Well, the reality is, that it truly is a big deal. Should you get credit for something that takes you a long time or something that you do with excellence in a very short time?
I can tell you this: people don’t want something that just simply works. They want something that is reliable, excellent and is as close to solving the problem as immediately as possible.
This is why you have to stop saying, “It’s nothing.” Your gifting, your skill, your intellect, your way with people, your finesse with language, etc. – it’s rare. We’re not all gifted the same way. You actually do your creation (and your Creator) a disservice by not being just a little bit impressed with yourself.
I try my hardest to work within my strengths every day. I don’t want to beat my head against the wall doing something that I could pay someone else to do in 15 minutes. There is great value in that person. I want to reward that person for being who they are.
Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking accurately about yourself. When you’re good at something and it’s easy for you, it’s a big deal. It’s not nothing!
For years, my wife used to tell me: “You need to learn to accept compliments from people.”
I usually had some excuse like, “Yeah, but you don’t know how all over the place I was. It didn’t even go how I planned. That wasn’t the outcome we were supposed to get.”
In so many words, my wife said, “It doesn’t matter what you think. It’s what impact you make.”
One really big reason why I couldn’t take compliments was personal pride. Only I could be the expert on my skill, abilities, and impact. Could someone who hasn’t been trained to know what they’re looking for really tell me if I did good or not.
This was really eye-opening for me.
It’s part of the reason why I tell our rookie coaches all the time: “Even bad coaching helps people.”
We’ve really got to get over ourselves. But, unconsciously, we’re shutting really good people down all the time when we don’t accept their compliments.
When we look away, brush it off, etc. – even if we don’t mean to do it – we look really prideful and we dishonor people by devaluing their affirmations of us.
I had to start listening, giving eye contact, and shutting down with all my internal voices that we’re trying to say “those people are wrong” or “No, you really didn’t do that great.”
For people to go out of their way to say thanks, that’s a gift people are sharing of themselves. And it’s mutually beneficial.
Which leads me to the next point…
Sometimes it’s really obvious: someone tells you that you saved them a lot of time with your work. Most of the time, compliments are an opportunity to allow someone the permission to share more about their life.
When you switch the conversation to how they’ve personally been helped, you take the spotlight off yourself, and you put it on the other individual to shine.
Recently, I caught up with a gentleman who said, “Hey I just wanted to say thanks for how you’ve impacted my life.”
I replied, “Wow, that’s so cool. What part of your life has been impacted most?”
He went on to share with me how he struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, and how, for the first time in his life, he’s free of all those things.
Now here’s the thing: coaches don’t do counseling or therapy. I never had any conversation with this gentleman about any of these things. In fact, I never even thought this could have been an issue for him.
But, if I’d left it at a simple, “Hey, thanks!” and blew it off, I would have never heard his story.
And I marveled at him. Because this story wasn’t about me and anything I’d done. It was completely a story about the revelation of who he was and about his ability to have an empowered new future.
I was so humbled, and I told him that. No way I’m taking credit for that. I just encouraged him and told him I was so happy to be there in a moment that was redefining for him.
Not only does flipping the attention on the individual value and encourage them, it helps you qualify what they’ve said and adds true meaning and purpose to what you do.
You never know when a compliment will come your way. I try my best to stop everything – stop packing up, or whatever I’m doing – and give undivided attention. I try my best to open my heart and treat the person in front of me as though they have something I need and something of value they can contribute to me.
I’m not worried about experts and famous people. Their words are appreciated as well, but they don’t have more merit.
Recently, I was introduced in Europe by a guy I highly respect that’s nearly 20 years older than me. He gave me the most ridiculous introduction and shared how I’ve changed his life.
I was in front of a large crowd, and, for a second or two, I was awkward, but I suddenly became aware of it and soaked it in right there in front of the crowd.
I always tell people how much their compliments mean to me, so much so that sometimes I’ll stop people and say, “May I record this with my phone? I want to remember this exactly like you’re saying it, and I know I won’t.”
Sometimes I simply ask them would they shoot me an email with what they said because I never want to forget it.
And I keep these memories handy. I stick them in a Google Doc or in some sort of file that I have quick access to on my phone.
It’s funny how we will internalize all the damaging stuff that’s been said to us in our lifetimes, but we’ll brush aside the true gold that finds it’s away to our souls.
If we can switch our focus, we’ll value ourselves and others much more.