This week I was at my industry convention or “show” in Boston. The three-day event is packed full of meetings, educational sessions, and high calorie meals. For any of you who have ever been to a convention, you can imagine the scene with postcard-sized name badges hanging around people’s necks, booths featuring the latest and greatest “products,” lots of ties (for the guys) and designer shoes (for the gals).
I LOVE learning about my business at this event, but these days I’ve started to look beyond the technological developments of the industry and pay attention to what’s going on with the people. Of course, a television convention isn’t as diverse as Comic-Con or Dragon*Con, but it still provides decent people-watching if you pay attention.
For instance, after a day of walking around, I started to notice more and more men fidgeting with their ties (as though they had lost practice in how to wear them), women limping through the halls due to poor shoe planning (my mistake this year), and an ever-increasing rash of literal “run-ins” because people were typing while walking.
However, what fascinated me most this year was how difficult it was to give someone a compliment.
I first noticed this when I ran into a long-time acquaintance from the West Coast whom I hadn’t seen in years. She looked like a million bucks and was sporting a fabulous blue dress.
“Wow! That’s a fantastic dress!!!” I said.
Apparently, she disagreed with me because she proceeded to tell me how the dress was old, tired, and made her look pudgy. Hmm, I thought, maybe I’m wrong, but I liked it.
I ran into another person who was wearing a beautiful pair of shoes, but when I complimented her she complained about how REALLY unhappy she was with the purchase and how her feet hurt, etc., etc. Then when I commented on how thin someone looked, the response was a commentary of how REALLY she had gained weight. When I gave another person a compliment about her new haircut, she proceeded to ask me if I REALLY liked it, or was I just being nice?
Umm. Both? I liked the cut, and I was trying to be nice by giving her the feedback.
Finally, I met a friend for breakfast, and, without thinking, I commented on how sharp she looked in her suit. The words slipped out before I could bite my tongue. However, the strangest thing happened. Instead of pushing back on the praise, she embraced it. I loved her response.
“I’m SO glad you like it. I bought it awhile back, and it’s one of my favorites!”
We exchanged a couple more sentences about where she bought the suit and how great she feels when she wears it. Her acceptance of my praise stood in sharp contrast with much of what I experienced this week. I remember my mother chastising me for “arguing with a compliment,” but this experience made me think about why it’s important to accept a compliment well. Think about these benefits.
Accepting a compliment :
- Affirms the other person’s opinion – If you reject the compliment, you’re telling the person that they don’t have good taste
- Takes you out of the “fishing for more” category. If you deny the compliment, it’s possible that others will “escalate” the argument, and then the whole conversation sounds like you’re actually looking for MORE praise.
- Acknowledges your effort- If you refuse the compliment, you’re denying that you made any effort to make a good decision (and THAT feels insincere).
- Sets people at ease. If you argue with a compliment, the person who offered the praise is unexpectedly put in the position of defending their opinion. They probably weren’t looking for an argument,so it’s surprising when that’s where the conversation heads.
- An opportunity to provide context. If you dismiss the compliment, you lose the opportunity to include others in the process. If you were to say something like, “I LOVE my hair stylist – she’s super talented!“ then you’ve both accepted the praise and shared it with someone else!
I know it’s hard to take praise when you don’t feel worthy of the acknowledgement, but if you do your best to even say a simple “thanks so much,” you’ll make the person you’re speaking with feel valued.
Plus, you might feel a little bit better about yourself and perhaps your shoes will hurt just slightly less.