“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” – Mark Twain
Do you ever feel awkward when given a gift? Christmas 1995, my beautiful grandmother bought seven-year-old me a package of whitey-tighties. She wrapped it up and snuck it under the tree like it was something to be excited about. When I opened it in the spotlight of the whole Meadows family, I turned even whiter than the fresh pack of Fruit of the Loom. I felt uncomfortable, awkward, and embarrassed. I clammed up. But as a good little boy who listened to my parents and loved my grandma, I eked out a “Thank you” through a forced smile.
Many people have been conditioned by their parents to blurt out gratitude when receiving a gift. But when receiving the gift of a compliment, affirmation, or encouragement, some of us can still clam up in the uneasiness of knowing how to respond. We have been conditioned to say thanks for a physical gift but still seem to awkwardly wing it when a verbal gift is given.
Instead of winging it, you should have the same planned response to others’ encouragement as you do for Christmas; just smile and say “Thanks.” Compliments can catch you off guard, make you uncomfortable, but if you condition yourself to rely on planned responses, you can have increased comfort in those times. Then the gift is appropriately and respectfully received.
If I took those whitey-tighties and chucked them in the trash or sneakily left them behind claiming I forgot them in the bustle of travelling home, I would have been given the gift but I would not have received it. There is a difference. A gift is received when gratitude is expressed. So, if someone says you are a superb writer or stellar manager, or whatever people tell you, don’t trash their affirmation by averting yours eyes awkwardly and changing the subject after an uncomfortable smile. Receive the gift in gratitude or else it is not received. Doing this will strengthen your connection with the giver, affirm them in the vulnerability of giving, and grow your own confidence.
When someone encourages you, look the person in the eyes and accept the gift. Apply it to yourself and use it in your fight against demeaning self-talk. Even if you don’t agree with what the person said, do not trash it, respect the giver, receive the gift, and just say, “Thanks.”