Insight: The Art of Accepting a Compliment

I have talked about learning to be able to take criticism, about accepting, and even being thankful for the but that comes after any feedback, knowing that that but can help you to be better!

While many of us must master the ability to take criticism, it can be just as difficult learning to accept and appreciate a nice compliment or genuine praise.

Learning to accept, internalise, and make use of criticism is an art, but receiving and accepting praise, or a compliment, seems far more simple.

In reality, there are numerous ways in which one can ruin a good compliment exchange, and chances are you know someone who you have given up complimenting because it has become too much hassle.

“Equally frustrating are those who just can’t ever accept a compliment. Who when you say “you look beautiful”, think you are being sarcastic, or rude, or just plain stupid.”

First of all we have the “goodie two shoes”, people like those kids at school who would suck so hard up to the teacher fishing for the compliment, or praise, that really it lost all meaning.

The people that have to find validation by making sure everyone acknowledges just how great they really are.

Equally frustrating are those who just can’t ever accept a compliment. Who when you say “you look beautiful”, think you are being sarcastic, or rude, or just plain stupid.

Appreciating, accepting, and letting that acceptance generate feelings of gratitude, and warmth, doesn’t mean you are up your self, it means that you have the ability to accept yourself as seen by another.

It takes work, learning to push out that gut reaction of “you can’t be serious”, and just let yourself feel happy.

It might be something tiny, that you thought no-one noticed, a special meal, or silly gift, and when someone turns to you, unpromtped, and says thankyou, learn to enjoy it.

The problem often is we get so used to hearing put downs, and ridicule, that our society becomes sceptical of genuine praise.

“(…) what I find to be beautiful might not be the same as the person sitting next to me.”

Someone gives us a genuinely nice comment, and we immediately question it, or in some cases, turn it around so that it sounds not like a compliment at all.

I have been reading many of the dressage groups recently, and I find that their is plenty of very good and healthy criticism, but not a lot of genuinely supportive and helpful praise.

In some cases even when a person does go for it, and says something positive, others condemn them for being incorrect, or praising without merit.

Beauty in dressage also has a subjective element to it, and what I find to be beautiful might not be the same as the person sitting next to me.

It doesn’t make me wrong, or them right, or vice versa, and some of the best praise can come from someone who just genuinely feels, through their eyes, that something is worth celebrating.

Horses are the best at their ability to praise, and accept praise in return; give them a carrot and they’ll think you are amazing!

Batialo loves to be told how awesome he is, but if he bites my arm he doesn’t expect to be told he is a good boy.

In fact he slinks off into hiding knowing that he took the ‘play’ too far.

IMG_2543He also knows that if he tries to show off, and earn my reward through over exuberance, that he will also not be fully rewarded, because I know him, and I know when he is just trying to get me to tell him he is awesome, and when actually he is trying to take over!

If people give you compliments and you throw them back, chances are you’ll end up never being told anything, for fear that a genuinely nice feeling will lose its intention and its meaning.

3 thoughts on “Insight: The Art of Accepting a Compliment

  1. I have found the same in leadership. So when I give seminars regarding leadership I tell people to just say thanks when they get a compliment. It’s amazing how it works because the only one you fully trust is yourself and if you yourself says thank, then it has to be right. The second effect is that the person giving you a compliment will be happy too. In pedagogy it’s called the double learning loop. Finally I have to give you a huge compliment for sharing your always interesting and valuable thoughts regarding horses and dressage. THANK YOU!


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