Working with women and working in areas like confidence and empowerment, I’ve noticed many women struggle with something. I think women struggle with this because we have been socialized, or led to believe, we are “supposed” to be modest, meek and gracious at all times.
I’m talking about receiving a compliment. I think women struggle with taking compliments, but I also believe we don’t notice how this plays out. When a woman received a compliment, expert deflection skills kick in to avoid receiving and feeling bolstered by the compliment.
Let me be clear here, there is a such a thing as unwanted attention, undesired or inappropriate compliments. I'm not talking about that here. Our expert deflection skills kick in even when the compliment comes from a close female friend or relative. Ladies, we are trying to lift each other up! When we deflect a compliment from someone trying to lift us up, we are rejecting the love and support someone is trying to offer us.
Since I’ve started paying attention to this, I’ve noticed some common strategies we use to deflect compliments (often under a veil of humor to disguise what’s really at play).
Minimizing happens when someone thanks or praises us and we minimize it by saying it wasn’t a big deal, it’s not a problem, or we didn’t have a choice.
For example, someone tells you that you’re so organized, and you respond by saying “thanks, I’m barely holding on.” Or someone says that your hair looks great today, and you respond by saying “Oh I only washed it.”
Disagreeing or Contradicting
It’s perplexing to watch this actually happening, but this happens when someone compliment us or points out a positive quality of ours and we respond by arguing or trying to prove them wrong.
For example, someone tells you that you did great on a project or presentation, and you respond by saying “oh no, I really did awful, I wasn’t prepared and made mistakes here, here and here.” Or someone says you look like you lost weight recently, and you respond by saying “no, I actually gained 3 lbs.”
Putting Yourself Down
I think we tend to gloss over how damaging this one can be, but when we really pay attention, this one is sad to watch. This one is also similar to disagreeing or contradicting. This happens when someone compliments us or points out a positive quality and we put ourselves down.
For example, someone tells you that you look great, and you respond by saying “Oh no I don’t, I look so frumpy.”
We sometimes even take this a step further by putting ourselves down, then giving the other person a compliment, elevating them in comparison to us.
For example, someone tells you that you look great, and you respond by saying “Oh no I don’t, I look so frumpy, but you look fantastic, you’re really glowing!”
So Ladies, Just Say "Thank You"
So what do we do about this habit that doesn’t help our confidence, self-esteem or help us feel very empowered?
First, start listening to others and pay attention to whether they fall into these patterns when you compliant them. If they do, simply repeat the compliment as if it’s a fact.
Second, pay attention to your patterns. How do you respond when someone compliments you?
Finally, and most importantly, when you find yourself deflecting a compliment, stop. Look them in the eye and say “thank you.”