How to Take a Compliment in Three Steps

I’ve discovered the secret to taking a compliment . . . Shut up!

Over the last 5 years, I have perfected a rare skill. When someone offers me a compliment, I have the ability to graciously accept it. I call this a rare skill because this is how I hear people (usually women) respond to a kind compliment.

Compliment - “Damn, you look fabulous, today!”

Typical response- “What?! I only got 4 hours sleep last night, and I just gained like 10 pounds. My hair is so flat today, ugh!”

Compliment - “You rocked that presentation today with the CFO!”

Typical response- “Are you kidding me? I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn’t start prepping until 2 hours before we started. PowerPoint is not my forte, and I totally botched the ending.

Have you not  received any compliments lately? Perhaps it is because you have trained the people around you that you are incapable of accepting them.

Here are the Three steps to accepting a compliment:

  1. Listen carefully to the person offering the kind compliment. Accept that it is likely true.

  2. Show gratitude with a thank you

  3. Promptly shut up!

This sure sounds simple, but I want you to start noticing how few people can actually follow these three easy steps. Are you feeling advanced? Then add a  fourth step. Remember the compliment by writing it down in a journal or online notes. Rereading compliments you have received over the years can be particularly empowering when you are feeling a bit low. Sometimes we all need a reminder of how fantastic we are. Compliments can also be written on separate pieces of colorful paper and kept in a box next to your bed with other treasures. After all, what can be more valuable than collecting the beautiful things that others see within us.

It’s rough, but let’s practice.  Here are some ways to  accept a compliment:

Compliment - “Your hair looks great today!”

Response- “Thank you, you just made me feel like a million bucks.”

Compliment - “Nice job asking for a promotion.”

Response - “I was nervous but I’m proud I had the guts to go for it. Thank you for the kind words.”

Learning how to accept compliments from others can prepare you for an even more challenging task - accepting compliments from yourself. In the past, I struggled with the voice inside my head. I would tell myself I would never accomplish what I wanted. I told myself I was fat, ugly and worthless. The voices said I didn’t deserve the good things that were happening, and that failure was eminent. We are told to trust our inner voice. But if your inner voice is a bitch, you should stop listening to it!

My negative voice inside my head manifested as an eating disorder, and after 20 years of suffering, I went for treatment. I went to battle with that voice and a brilliant therapist finally told me something that clicked. She asked me why I spoke so cruelly to myself, and I truly didn’t know. She asked me if I loved myself, and I said I did. She asked me if I loved my daughter, and I said, “of course!” She asked me if I spoke to my daughter with the same cruel words that I used for myself. I couldn’t imagine saying any of these negative things to my daughter or to anyone else. Then the therapist told me that I deserved the same love my daughter did and to start having my inner voice speak to me with the same amount of love and respect..

So I did. After all of those years of treating myself so poorly, it was incredibly challenging to be kind. So at first I faked it. I simply decided to speak to myself with the same love I would use for my daughter. It was odd, unbelievable and unnatural, but I committed to 30 days of keeping it up and slowly it became a habit. I slipped many times and would catch myself and correct it. It took a year to completely relieve myself of the negative self talk. I began to believe the good things I told myself. I began to believe the positive words that others spoke about me. Positive ideas disseminated in my brain and eventually replaced the negative ones. My eating disorder lessened and then became barely traceable. It has now been five years since I treated myself like crap. I’m a pro in the practiced art of accepting compliments from myself and others. My life is easier, happier and more successful. One of my most treasured possessions is a box of written compliments that I read when I am feeling blue.
This week, when someone tells you how incredible you are, I want you to thank them and believe them. Then, shut up!

(This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post)