Until fairly recently, I hadn’t the slightest clue how to accept a compliment. If someone was kind enough to say “What a pretty outfit you’re wearing”, I felt compelled to give an airy wave of the hand and mumble “This old thing? It’s as old as the hills”. Comments like “You handled that project really well” had me rolling my eyes and saying “Ah! It was nothing. Anyone could have done it”. Here are some compliments that were kindly offered to me over the years, and how I handled them in the good old days when I didn’t know better:
a) I loved the chicken curry you prepared the other day. My response: “Really? Are you sure it didn’t have too much salt?” b) “You write well” My response: “Ah, it’s just a bit of scribbling. Nothing great” c) “What a lovely ring” My response: “I got it in a year-end sale. Only ten dollars!!!! Can you believe it?”
Now, I really am hoping that I’m not the only one in the entire universe who doesn’t quite know what to do with a compliment. Should I accept it but then return it in equal measures? Should I somehow deflect it, indicating it wasn’t really deserved? Should I say Thank You, but then give a million reasons why the compliment is not justified in the first place?
I have always maintained that there is something to be learned from every person we meet. Some teach us how to be, some how not to be. I have learned lots of wonderful things from people a lot older than I am. But on the flip side, I have made amazing discoveries about life and its infinite possibilities from those who were born decades after I was. My finest teachers have been in terms of age both young and old. But they shared one thing in common: they were all young at heart!
A couple of weekends ago, I was in the city with the family for celebrations of the International Fleet Review. Warships and tall ships from all over the world had arrived at Darling Harbour. The sun was blazing down on the thousands of people who were out in droves to participate in this dazzling event. We found a cool and shady spot under a huge tree, and spread out the picnic rug on the slightly moist grass. We had a lovely view of all the aircraft that were doing acrobatic nose dives in the sky, and an equally lovely view of all the stately ships sailing past. I opened the picnic basket and out came the sandwiches, the orange juice and the jelly beans.After a while, I decided to have a bit of a snooze. A huge straw hat covered my face, but I could feel the sun’s rays burning my arms.
All around me, people were laying out their own picnic rugs and enjoying some lovely weather after a long and dismal winter. I was about to doze off when I heard voices approaching. I peeped from under my hat and saw three teenagers walk up and sit down not far from us. They were eating half melted ice blocks and giggling about something. I went back to snoozing but their conversation seeped through my sub-conscious. I was floating in and out of sleep, and caught snatches of sentences. One bit of conversation stayed with me for a long time. I heard one of them say to the other: “Is that a new dress? I love it. You have a great sense of fashion, you know” I waited to hear what the girl who was receiving the compliment would say. I know what I would have said in her place. Something along the lines of: “Me? Great sense of fashion? You’ve got to be kidding!”
She said nothing of the sort. After a slight pause during which she concentrated on not letting her ice block melt all over the grass, she offered a dimpled smile and said……………
I loved it! What a great way of accepting a compliment. What a great way of showing confidence in oneself, without appearing too cocky or worse, too jaded.
I realized then that sometimes that’s all it takes. A simple thank you. No explanations. No excuses. No justifications.
Accepting a compliment is an art. I haven’t perfected it yet. Not by a long stretch. I still occasionally bring out the old “Ah, it’s nothing” excuse. But I’m learning. Slowly. But surely.
Copyright 2013 Nim Gholkar All Rights Reserved