I once read that ‘thank you’ is a perfectly acceptable response to most compliments. I try to follow the rule myself, though it’s hard as someone who is naturally inclined towards self-deprecation.
We all know how irritating it can be when someone constantly refuses to accept our compliments: the girl who won’t accept someone thinks she’s beautiful; the guy who refuses to let us congratulate him on playing guitar well. Yet, I’ve never really thought about why it’s irritating, until now…
People sometimes compliment my writing, and it always surprises me. It’s not that I don’t believe I’m any good, it’s more that I don’t expect other people to agree with me (or to even read my stuff!) When someone tells me I write well, I’m therefore tempted to tell them I’m not really that good.
But that’s quite disrespectful to the other person. I’d basically be saying I know better than them, which is odd, given my self-deprecating leanings. Or I’d be calling them a liar, or a sycophant, believing they’re telling me what I want to hear, not what they really think. (Though I would probably dress it up in my mind as ‘they’re just being polite.’)
So, instead, I pause for a second, allowing my brain to process the fact this person may actually like what I write, and then I thank them.
Even if they’re wrong, and my writing is terrible, they are still entitled to their opinion and I am grateful it’s a positive one.
Next time someone pays you a compliment, accept it graciously. They might just be telling the truth.
(Liz Mosley, if you’re reading this, thank you! Your compliment last weekend inspired this post.)