Today’s Lesson: A compliment is not about your self-esteem.
“You’re the one with the brains,” Dani, the host of the Katy Says podcast, told Katy Bowman. As the only actual biomechanist I have heard of, and as a decent critical thinker, I thoroughly enjoy Katy’s podcast. This moment, though, annoys me, because Katy’s dismissive response was, “No. You have brains. Everyone has brains. I think what I am is the person who is trying to explain something.”
Dani added, “…Which you are so good at!”
Katy quipped, “Well.. I guess that depends on who you are talking to.”
Twice the host tried to compliment Katy and twice Katy batted it away as an inaccurate assessment.
When someone gives you a compliment, they are not asking you to judge yourself. They are not hoping to see your low self-esteem shine through. They are acknowledging something in you they think is great.
Your job is neither to be arrogant nor humble when someone says something good about you. When you dismiss someone else’s compliment, you are not only demonstrating low self-esteem, but also you are passive-aggressively telling them they are too stupid to see the real truth about you. You are actively rejecting their ability to think for themselves and tell you they think well of you.
We think we are being humble when we down-play a compliment, but in fact, we are being jerks. When someone says they think you are smart, or pretty, or important, or a good parent, or clever, or witty, or just that you had a good idea, your response should be to accept the compliment gracefully. The way to do that is the simplest, easiest thing in the world.
All you have to do is smile and say, “Thank you.”