10 Life Skills Your Mother Never Taught You
How to Take a Compliment
There are three probable reasons that we deflect a comment about our lovely singing voice or how nicely we’re raising our children. First, simply acknowledging it is “like inviting bad luck,” says Gottman. “My relatives would spit three times—pfft, pfft, pfft—whenever they said something positive, lest they summon the evil eye.” Second, says Christopher Germer, a clinical psychology instructor at Harvard Medical School and the author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion ($17, amazon.com), there’s a cultural prescription to be humble (or at least there was before the dawn of social media and reality TV), “and when we get a compliment, we fear there’s a momentary lapse of humility.” Finally, Germer adds, it’s a form of protection: “We all just want to be loved and valued, but we walk around holding our breath about the ways in which we aren’t.” When people say something nice to us—when they say they love us, in one form or another, even if it’s about our hair or our boots—we may realize how much we crave appreciation. And that makes us feel vulnerable, so we push away the compliment. There’s no easy way to subvert the forces of fate, culture, upbringing, and our deepest fears, but try this: The next time a person pays you a compliment, just smile and say, “Thank you.” Nothing more. Do it again and again. A hundred repetitions later, you’ll start to feel less awkward. Even, maybe, deserving. (Pfft, pfft, pfft.)
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So maybe you can’t change your health overnight. But you can get a head start.