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I absolutely love compliments. Actually, that's a lie. I absolutely love the idea of compliments. I love the compliment itself after I've gotten over the initial, "You're saying something super nice about me to my face" awkwardness. In fact, there's precious little for turning a glum day around like a well-placed kind word from a friend or even a stranger. But humanity seems to agree, a compliment can be tough. I once heard someone say that accepting a compliment is like trying to feed a wrinkly twenty into a vending machine cash slot; it just doesn't work. The explanation for this phenomenon can be found in how we view ourselves. According to this 2013 article in Psychology Today:
"...In other words, receiving praise from others when we feel negatively about ourselves elicits discomfort because it conflicts with our existing belief system. If we believe we’re truly undesirable, hearing compliments about how attractive we are will feel jarring and inauthentic. If we believe we’re unintelligent, someone lavishing us with praise about how smart we are will feel more like a taunt than a compliment. And if we’re convinced we’re incapable of success, receiving praise about our how capable we are can feel like a set-up for future heartbreak and disappointment."
I don't intend to delve into your self esteem, but I did compile two lists to help you deal with praise: Accepting Compliments and Giving Compliments. Relax, sit back, and let the wrinkles in your twenty dollar bill smooth out a little.
How To Accept A Compliment:
"Oh! Hey, Courtney! You look adorable today!"
Chances are, every excuse for not accepting this compliment will rise to your mind. You're ready with a stock set of answers including how you didn't wash your hair this morning, your eyeliner isn't even, you look super tired, or this shade of green washes you out. My top tip for dealing with a compliment on your appearance? Shut up and say 'thank you.' Anyone dispensing a real compliment isn't looking for you to discredit their words. They're not going to think you're an arrogant woman for accepting it the way it was meant: with kindness and humility.
"I'll let you spear-head this project, Beth. You're so good at organizing people!"
Instead of trying to convince everyone around that you're actually an incompetent wretch (why is this our instinctual reaction?), humbly accept the job and do credit to their belief in you by applying all the talent you have to making the project a success. This isn't performance-based acceptance, this is making use of what talent you have and thanking the compliment-giver by showing that you care.
"You're an amazing artist, Rachel."
Compliments given in the realm of extremism are always difficult for me to accept. I could easily explain (and other, better artists would agree) that I'm far from amazing. The point of the compliment was not, however, to talk about how I was the best in the world. The point was to let me know that said person enjoyed my art. It's unreasonable to ask the person not to enjoy my art, flaws and all. The proper way to accept this compliment, however, would be to thank them and deflect attention by asking if they like to practice any form of art themselves and if so to let them tell you about it.
How To Give A Compliment:
"You know, Madelyn, I've always been a fan of skater skirts but you're really rocking it today."
The more specific a compliment is, the harder it is for a person to deflect or to feel uncomfortable accepting. Telling a girl she's gorgeous might be a terribly kind thing to do, but if she doesn't believe such a sweeping statement about herself, she isn't likely to accept it. Telling her, however, that a particular dress looks fantastic on her will add a saunter to her step every time she wears that outfit. Seek to point out specific things. One of my guy friends is hilarious at this. Once he hugged me upon arrival at a party: "Hi, Rach. You look great and you smell amazing. I don't know why." I laughed so hard.
"I don't know anyone else who knows when to say exactly what I need to hear like you do."
Praising someone's particular personality traits is another way to give an non-negotiable compliment. Tell people in your life what it is about them specifically that makes you happy to see them every time. Maybe it's their bright smile or their hilarious laugh. Maybe it's their comedic timing or their willingness to do the boring jobs everyone else shirks. These kinds of compliments have evidence to back them and are therefore irrefutable.
"You're great. I really enjoying hanging out with you."
Again with the personal evidence backing this up. Many people who don't like accepting compliments do like hearing that they are loved and valued. The general, "Hey, I like you," is a good way to slip in a compliment on the sly without making anyone in the conversation feel awkward. Try this sort of compliment with those people in your life who will do anything in the entire world to avoid compliment-accepting.
Can you add any more tips for giving or accepting compliments?