2/11/13, 7:30 pm, comments on this thread are now closed.
Dear Captain Awkward:
How do you non-awkwardly handle compliments and being thanked?
I’ve always hated being praised or thanked, even as a kid. I never know what to say.
My mum constantly thanks me for stuff that is a normal part of being a housemate. She really does not need to thank me for hanging the washing or doing the dishes – its what people who want to live in cleanliness and household harmony do. Not something extra. How do I say “you’re welcome” three times in five minutes while sounding sincere?
Also, how does one make being thanked for buying gifts less awkward? I know it was nice to do, thats why I did it, I don’t need to be given more than a cursory thank you and perhaps an update as to how they enjoyed it.
I loathe being praised, so much that as a child I would hide good marks on assignments so my parents wouldnt praise me. If I’ve done good, generally I just enjoy the thing well done.
But since I know thats my issue – how does one graciously accept praise and what are ways to quickly change the subject?
Dear Awkward Turtle:
The answer to this is always “Thank you” or “You’re welcome” or “It was my pleasure,” and the subject will change itself.
Feel like you didn’t deserve the compliment? Say “Thank you.”
Feel like the person is overly effusive in their praise? Say “Thank you.”
Person says thank you for a nice thing you did? Say “You’re welcome!” or “My pleasure!“
Have weird issues about accepting/deserving praise? You should still say “Thank you,” when you get a compliment.
As the Artist Formerly Known As Miss Plumcake says, you don’t have to believe the compliment to accept the compliment. This is pretty much the opposite of the hugs question. With unwanted hugs? Say you don’t want a hug or physically move away. With a compliment? Take it. Your issues are 100% your own to deal with in private, away from the person who is saying nice things to you.
When someone says “You look nice today” or “Thanks for your work, it was very good and I appreciate it” and you try to dodge and weave and deny what they said, like “Oh, this old thing?” or “It wasn’t that good really” you’re basically saying “You have terrible taste and are stupid for noticing nice things about me.” You’re being rude. You’re making the other person stop their day and take care of your feelings – whether it be low self-esteem or a self-esteem so high that you’re like Superman – “No need to thank me, saving the day is just my default natural state because I am so awesome.” And what is going to happen if you dodge or deflect the compliment is pretty much exactly what you don’t want to happen – the other person will now try to convince you of your greatness, and you will be the one who has made it super-weird, and a 10-second “You’re great/Thanks!” exchange wil now become a 10-minute Dance of Awkward. You did a nice thing for the person. Let them complete the ancient gifter/recipient circuit and say thank you.
Now, if someone goes on for like, fifteen minutes of complimenting and is being weirdly effusive? Say “Wow, THANK YOU, but I’m really blushing here. Can we talk about something else?” (Note: You still say ‘Thank you’.) If it’s a total stranger or someone you don’t like at all acting like Smoove B., take whatever evasive action you need to, no thanks required.
It’s not that I don’t empathize, I basically had to go to therapy to learn how to just accept praise and actually feel good about good things I’d done. As a kid praise and attention or being singled out in any way publicly made me want the earth to open up and swallow me. I would do stuff like learn to play the flute or join the debate team and then quit as soon as people said I might be good at it, because being publicly good at things was too much pressure. So let me validate your feelings of weirdness and discomfort: They’re real! And wicked uncomfortable! Congratulations!
One therapist a long time ago made me practice affirmations in the mirror and it was seriously THE MOST SQUICK-INDUCING WEIRD AWKWARD THING but if I didn’t do them at home I had to do them AT therapy (I could have lied and said I’d done them, but if you are lying to your therapist you’re probably not helping yourself and also holy wow have you identified an area that needs to be worked on). My Jerkbrain also has that nice mix of New England Puritan work-ethic and Catholic guilt that says that being perfect is just what I’m naturally supposed to be doing and should never, ever be praised. Was something fun to do and did it come kind of easy and am I talented at it? Fuck no, I’m not allowed to take credit or accept praise, because the only things that “count” are painful and difficult. Also, admitting that I needed help with anything = failure! Needing help is a sign that I just needed to try harder!
Yeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh….I needed a licensed third party to tell me “Uh, that’s weird, Jennifer. Happy people let themselves feel good and proud sometimes, and they ask for help when they need it, and they don’t freak out when people are a basic level of nice to them, maybe you could try it?“
Validation/Jerkbrain analysis over. Take the compliment. Feel whatever you genuinely feel, but to the other person say a simple “Thank you” or “You’re welcome” and move on with your day. If you need to change the subject, try: “How did you enjoy recent (event)?” “How is your grilled cheese sandwich tasting?” “Lovely weather we’re having.” “Did someone just fart?” “Oh look – THE QUEEN!”
Or turn the tables with a compliment of your own. Ha! That will teach them!
And finally, I really disagree with you about the housemate thing. Yes, washing dishes, etc. is just what housemates should do for each other. But often we think that politeness, gratitude, and expressing appreciation doesn’t matter with people we are closest to. “Oh, spouse knows I think s/he’s pretty, I don’t have to say it all the time.” “Oh, aging parent who moved back in with me knows I am glad to have her here, I don’t have to tell her all the time.” “Oh, boyfriend knows I love it when he makes breakfast, I don’t have to tell him.” I think that compliments, “please,” and “thank you” matter MORE when you share space and intimacy with people. It’s a way to make sure you don’t lose the plot with each other. It’s a way not to assume that everyone knows what you feel and to keep yourself in the habit of saying what you feel out loud. Those tiny kindnesses add up to a life of love and friendship and appreciation, please don’t be so quick to sweep them away as something that doesn’t matter. Your mom, by complimenting/thanking you, might be modeling how she’d like you to talk to her because she sincerely wants to smooth the way between you and let you know you are loved. Sure, you can assume love, but isn’t it better to know?
The Winter Pledge Drive (where I awkwardly shake the tip jar in your general direction) continues through tomorrow. I’m about halfway through thank you emails, and will hopefully finish those in the next day or so.