It's Rude To Refuse A Compliment
Compliment Deniers Are Exhausting, Don't Be Exhausting
This article was inspired by my friend's Karen's piece "How Do You Handle Compliments?
I used to work with a lady called Colleen. She was attractive, bright and industrious. She looked good for her age and had a nice figure which she had earned by healthy habits and exercise. She was kind, had a sense of humour, and was generally good fun.
And to listen to her describe herself she was Quasimodo, but with less sex appeal.
There was one thing about Colleen that was no fun at all, and that was the constant battle if you ever offered her a compliment.
Compliment Deniers are exhausting. And frankly, it's bloody bad manners.
Here's a typical early conversation with Colleen:
Me: "Oh, that's a nice dress, lovely colour!"
Colleen: "Oh, it's ancient, it doesn't fit properly, and I don't think this colour suits me."
Me: "No, it looks really nice, you'd never know it was old."
Colleen: "Oh no, it looks awful really I just threw it on."
I don't want to make Compliment Deniers feel even worse about themselves, because clearly this behaviour springs from a place of self-loathing. And this might be confirmation bias on my part, but I have seen a lot of women deny compliments, but seldom have seen this in men.
I think the behaviour is reinforced by the societal notion that women must be humble to the point of being an invisible doormat; that any woman who ever dares to actually like herself must be hunted down, squashed flatter than a beetle, and put back in "her place".
If you add that societal expectation to someone who is naturally a bit low in feelings of self-confidence, it can become quite poisonous.
Compliment Denying may have started off as the person wishing to be humble, or at least wishing to sound it, but if it progresses to the point where you're being irritating to the other person, where you're forcing them to battle with you, what you're telling the person offering you the compliment is that basically they're an idiot for thinking something nice about you. And you're wasting their time and energy.
Eventually, most people just stop giving compliments to Compliment Deniers. That's what happened with Colleen. I'd catch myself going to say something heartfelt and appreciative and then I'd think "Oh, I can't be bothered with the argument".
I did point out to her (kindly) what she was doing, how it came across, how frustrating it was, and she agreed in theory. I'm pretty forthright if something is really bothering me. But the idea that allowing herself to accept a compliment was in some way poor manners, or a poor reflection on her was just too ingrained in her psyche. Because she doggedly and determinedly deflected every compliment anyone gave her, rather than sounding humble or self-effacing she presented, on those occasions, as irritating, self-pitying and ill-mannered.
Practice Makes Perfect
Many years ago a psychologist forced me to sit there and accept compliments during a session. He even used a mirror and made me say nice things to myself. It was excruciating. But the point was made.
The correct way to reply to a compliment is with "Thank You".
I still become a little embarrassed when someone says something complimentary, so I will deflect more subtly with "Oh thanks, you're very kind" or something similar. The implication being that they're just being kind rather than I really deserve it. Most people let that pass.
I will also sometimes robustly deflect the compliment back to them. The other day a lovely Iranian lady told me I had beautiful eyes. I said "Oh thank you, so do you!" She did, in fact, have beautiful eyes so that worked well. It felt a lot less conceited than saying simply "Thank you". It was still acceptable, polite and it didn't make her feel awkward for trying to say something nice to me.
If someone is paying you a compliment they are offering you a gift. It's not a nice feeling to have your gift rejected. Why would you do that to someone who is being nice to you?
Do I still twitch a little inside when someone compliments me? Yes.
But I can control it - and so can you.
Practice saying "Oh, thank you", or if that's too hard say "Oh you're very kind". Figure out your own phrases and ways of accepting a compliment gracefully, rather than making the person who gave it to you wish they hadn't bothered.
It's rude to refuse a compliment, and Compliment Deniers are exhausting.
Don't be a Compliment Denier. Love yourself a little, and let others appreciate you too.
Copyright Alison Tennent 2021, all rights reserved. Scottish by birth, upbringing and bloodline, Australian by citizenship. If you’re reading this anywhere but The Garrulous Glaswegian, Vocal+ or Medium, this work may have been plagiarized.
Alison Tennent, Queensland, Australia, May 2021
Wishing you, as always, fair winds and a following sea.