We all know what that old expression:
“What goes around comes around!”
If you’re a generous giver of compliments, that should be a harbinger of good things to come, right? But what if you don’t let it come around? Well, I hate to break it to you, but the whole cycle will grind to a halt! Let me explain.
In life, by definition, there has to be equilibrium in the world for things to function in a harmonious way. This includes in human relationships; there must be balance and reciprocity. I don’t mean like a “tit for tat” or “quid pro quo” of matching niceties or favors between each pair of people in every relationship. But there needs to be balance overall, between what you and I are giving out to others as a whole and what we are receiving.
You may think that there are some altruistic people who only give and never receive, but even they must maintain a balance, by accepting what they need in ways that maybe aren’t as obvious to us.
Consider for example Mahatma Gandhi, the epitome of selfless dedication in service of the cause of political freedom and civil rights. What drove him was not what he himself would get out of the changes he sought, but his focus on helping the whole Indian population. Nonetheless, he allowed others to care and provide for him, and to proffer their help in achieving his monumental mission. He literally could not have survived and achieved what he did if he were not willing and able to receive.
Have You EnJOYed Giving Compliments?
Over the last two weeks of articles I have focused on the art of giving authentic, heartfelt compliments. I sincerely hope that you have been practicing that skill, by looking for opportunities to give compliments and taking in the feelings of warmth and even joy that generosity creates.
I also hope you have noticed the conversations that go on in your head when you give them, such as perhaps, “Am I just saying this so she’ll invite me to her next party?” or “Does he think I’m just schmoozing him in order to get something from him, or does he know I really mean this?”
Well, this week I am switching over to the other half of the equation, and emphasize the less well-recognized fact that receiving compliments and other gifts can actually be even more challenging for many people than giving them.
Can you remember the last time you received a compliment? Was it about something you did, helped with, worked on, or created? How did you feel hearing the compliment? Did you glow inside, or did you feel uncomfortable and tense?
Well, my goal for you today is that you at least begin to be able to practice enjoying openly, honestly and matter-of-factly your good, proud, pleased, satisfied and other feelings about your “job well-done.“ This is not because it’s necessary to be acknowledged for everything you do well, but because we all need the balance of acknowledgment, and it sure feels good when you receive it!
It All Starts With Noticing How You Receive
If giving a compliment is similar to giving a gift, then receiving a compliment is similar to receiving a gift. The last thing you want to do to the giver of a gift is minimize the gift they just gave you, right?
And yet, what happens to you inside when the spotlight is on you? Do you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed? Does your chest or some other part of your body tighten up? Do you feel the need to deflect the attention, or minimize what you did that’s being recognized and complimented (while secretly soaking up the good feeling!)?
Do you feel the need to “return” the compliment? Think about that expression for a moment – just like “returning” something to a store that you’ve decided you don’t want, what it actually means is to give it back so you don’t have it any more!
A compliment is an expression of praise or admiration. Start to notice if you are comfortable receiving this kind of recognition, or you feel the need to:
▪ slough it off
▪ minimize it
▪ quickly return a similar compliment, to move the attention off of yourself
If you notice any of these reactions occurring, remember to STOP! BREATHE! and FOCUS! Let the compliment in. Let it reach down to the core of your being. Let yourself be reminded of how good it feels to be acknowledged, just like when you were a child and your parents or teachers praised and encouraged you.
What’s The Big Deal, Anyway?
So what makes something as wonderful as a compliment so difficult to receive? Just as with our attitudes, rules and resistance when it comes to giving compliments, much of our difficulty with accepting positive messages, and basking delightedly in the glow of our successes, stems from old beliefs and learned behaviors. (And I’ll be teaching you how to identify those in next month’s newsletter, so stay tuned!)
For now, notice the next time you get one how receiving a true compliment is meaningful on two levels. The first is your belief in the truth of the compliment, and the second is the respect and admiration you have for the person giving you the compliment.
In this light, think about examples of compliments that you have received in your life. Perhaps it was about:
▪ a job well done
▪ assistance you gave
▪ a project you worked hard on
Allow yourself to remember how good you felt about what you had done that was complimented. Even without any external validation, you were already aware of how hard you worked, and how good a job you did. The compliment just served to focus your attention on it and acknowledge it to yourself, and to allow that good feeling to expand and linger and settle down even more deeply inside you.
Then think about how much of that good feeling derived specifically from the source of the compliment. If the giver was someone you hold in high esteem you might have thought something like, “Wow, coming from him that really means a lot!” Notice how the source of a compliment can exponentially increase its significance and enjoyment for you.
This Is Important Stuff!
No matter how tempted you might feel to disregard this whole area of learning to receive compliments with grace, ease and celebration (and just know that your tendency to disregard it is just your unconscious belief system talking to you), I highly encourage you to give yourself the gift of taking it seriously, and here’s why:
If you continue to avoid receiving, you may actually find that over time you have fewer people to give to!
Why? Because without even recognizing it, you will be creating a barrier between yourself and the people in your life who appreciate you and want to contribute to you in any number of ways. Don’t let that happen to you! Keep the cycle of giving AND receiving going, by practicing receiving every chance you get.
Over the next several weeks I’ll share with you some tips for recognizing your barriers to receiving, and practices you can put in place for reducing them.