You know the feeling... That awkward moment when someone thinks they're giving you a compliment but it's not really appropriate (or it's not even a compliment at all), and you stand there confused, trying to muster up some sort of coherent response. (This is when you blush, shift from side-to-side, and then quickly change the subject as if nothing was said at all.)
Or... That equally awkward moment when someone gives you a compliment and it catches you off guard. Something about the situation-- either the timing or the person or the location-- does not seem like a proper compliment-giving time. So you, again, stand there confused, trying to muster up some sort of coherent response. Or you do what we have all become so good at, and you deflect the compliment, like accepting their words would somehow serve as a portal to a lion's den, like it's something to be afraid of. (This is when you interject responses like, "No I'm not," "Oh, it's nothing," "*nervous giggle*," "Don't say that," "Not really," and then you avoid eye contact at all costs.)
I have a yoga teacher who once said, "It's only awkward if you make it awkward. It's only weird if you make it weird. So don't make it weird."
Well, our collective 'not-good-enough' complex is making it weird.
Real conversation from my weekend:
Person: Oh wow, Ruby. You look so great. What have you been doing?
He quite obviously wants to know what workouts I've been up to, how I count my macros, or some nonsense like this. I know.
Me: Thank you!
Person: Yeah, really. What have you been doing? Anything different?
I told you. I know his angle.
Me: I've been having a lot of fun. I do a lot of stuff because I like to move in lots of different ways each week.
Person: Like what? What do you do?
Me: A little bit of everything. It's good to see you.
This is when I look at my friend (who witnessed this whole encounter), smile, pat him on the shoulder, and walk out of the room.
Shit like this happens all the time. And the issue I have is not that people are interested in me. The issue I have is that people are interested in more than me. People are interested in my 'quick fix,' my 'magic potion,' my 'perfect routine.' But guess what... I don't have any of those things. Very literally, I repeat, I DO NOT HAVE ANY OF THOSE THINGS. I do not have a quick fix. I do not have a magic potion. I do not even have a relatively consistent routine, much less a perfect one. No one does. (And that is for another blog on another day.)
But because we have each allowed our selves to carry around this desire to be better, stronger, worthy, good enough, we no longer know how to genuinely compliment someone. We only know how to compliment in a way that also comes across as wanting something from that person. As if to say, "Tell me your secret." We are so caught up in our own self-perceptions that we struggle to actually recognize and acknowledge the good in another being simply for what it is. We have such a difficult time allowing differences to be beauties. So before we can even learn how to take a compliment, we should really first know how to take one...
Here's how to give a compliment:
1) Think about the types of compliments you like to receive. The ones that fill your soul and lift your spirit. (Do this first alone, before you ever encounter another person)
I like to be told how intuitive I am or that I carry myself with confidence and happiness.
2) Commit to noticing something in someone that goes deeper than skin deep.
This could be the way someone listens when you talk or remembers your birthday.
3) Candidly tell that person what you observed and admire.
"You are a remarkable listener. When I talk to you I know I am being seen and heard." or "You are so attentive!"
4) Don't hold back the love.
Let them know how much you appreciate this about them. And as much as you can, do not let them deflect your compliment. Let them know that your compliment is a fact and not a question.
Great. Now we have become world-class compliment givers. And what's next? Well, we cannot actually be world-class compliment givers unless we, too, know how to take a compliment. This is actually the hard part, because like I said before, we have conditioned ourselves to deflect any form of compliment thrown our way. Plus, not everyone knows the tips to good compliment giving, so sometimes we have to accept compliments that are shallow or strange or misplaced because we realize that the intentions are good. (This is often.)
I really believe that when we learn how to give and take compliments, we learn how to unlock connection with people. When we feel seen and show others that we see them, we create the space for everyone to JUST BE.
So... The missing link...
How to take a compliment:
Hear her or his words for what they are, knowing that this is their form of a compliment. Look this person in the eyes.
2) Say Thank You.
This is where you will want to break eye contact and say silly things like 'No I'm not.' Don't do that. Resist. You are so much more enough than that. Say Thank You.
That's it. It is really that simple. And the best part is that the more genuine and real compliments we give, the more we will start to receive. And the more compliments we allow ourselves to receive, the more enough we will feel.
You are worthy of a compliment.
Another real conversation from my weekend:
Person: Thank you for class, Ruby. That was so great.
Me: Oh, Thank you!
Person: Really, not that you were a little girl before, but you are so mature and poised. I couldn't help but watch you as you taught.
Me: I really appreciate that. I truly feel like I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing.
Person: I can tell. And something about that class. You made it feel so intimate. You're really special.
Me: This is when I hug her, because if I don't I may start crying.
Don't hold back. Create space for realness, for authenticity, for connection. Be a world-class compliment giver and a state-of-the-art compliment receiver. It takes both.
And when you do, you take a stand for who you are and you take a stand for who that person is. You allow yourself to be unashamedly you, and you allow everyone else to be unapologetically themselves.
Let's all do more of that.
i have you. i hold you. i love you.