The other day, I spoke with a friend who had good news. In a battered industry, and for this person, a battered profession, he had good news. After some hard work, a break had come his way, and my immediate reaction was to tell him how happy I was for him. That compliment was rebuffed, with a few mumbled words: “Oh, I think I was just lucky.” A few minutes later, I tried to compliment him again. This time, I was serenaded with a depressed, “Thanks, but it probably won’t amount to much.” When I tried to give a compliment a third time, I received yet another apologetic response. At that point, I was sorry I even bothered, but it also made me think.
Why is accepting a compliment so difficult for so many of us?
- Is it superstition? I’m a pretty superstitious guy myself, but are we really going to let superstition stop us from graciously accepting a compliment? If our superstition centers around a fear of not receiving any more compliments, discounting a compliment may very well prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Is it modesty?Last time I checked, receiving a compliment from someone else is quite different from blowing one’s own horn.
- Is it a learned behavior? Personally, I think we are taught at a young age to step away from a compliment, and brush it off to avoid the risk of sounding arrogant.