Compliments. You remember those, right? Those little ego-boosting bits of validation that come from relatives, friends, acquaintances and even strangers can make your day. So, why do people have serious problems accepting them for what they are?
Compliments are easy to give, because every person has something about them which makes them extraordinary. But apparently compliments are very difficult to accept. People don’t take them at face value, believe there must be catch or ulterior motive, or just generally feel uncomfortable when someone points out something positive about them. And how truly sad is that? We are conditioned to believe that we are not special or worthy of notice. We idolize those who are athletic, or attractive, or make money, or appear on TV or in movies. But, what about the parents who care dearly for their children, or the workers who put in overtime to make sure their families can live comfortably, or the employee in the store who smiles for every single customer, or the friend who makes you feel like you can do anything? Aren’t those “ordinary” things the most important things in our lives?
I have a habit of writing notes for people who really move me, either with the way they approach life or the fact that they brighten my day or that they have done something I find inspiring. And in almost every case, it makes them uncomfortable. They think I must want something, or that I am flirting (ok, yes, sometimes I am, but that does not make the sentiment any less sincere) or I expect something in return. The truth is, I believe without reservation that every single person needs to be told – by people who are not necessarily a part of their lives – that there are parts of them that are wonderful. I don’t do it all the time, and I don’t do it for just anyone. But when I am moved to do it, it’s because a compliment can be a day changer. It can make a terrible day bearable, a normal day a little bit special, and it makes a good day a little better.
And the best response to a compliment? There is no best response. Sometimes you can laugh and be self-deprecating, sometimes you can smile and say thanks, sometimes you can defer the praise to someone else you think deserves it, sometimes you can say “That’s really nice of you to say”. And sometimes you may feel uncomfortable because you don’t really believe you are special or extraordinary. But know this – for at least that small moment… you really are.