When it comes to compliments there are some people who can accept them gracefully and others who completely reject them. It may be that one rejects all compliments or only compliments that come from certain people.
This can relate to men who reject all compliments from women or women who reject all compliments form men. And then there is the work environment; where one may reject compliments from colleagues. Accepting compliments from friends may also be a challenge.
So even though one may have a connection to someone, accepting their kind words can be no easier than if a stranger were to give them.
This is not to say that compliments are always genuine or are coming from clear intentions. But there will be times when the compliments are real and have been well thought out. Used as a sign of appreciation and acknowledgment of what one has done or who one is.
There will also be times when a compliment is neither pure nor clear in intention and is simply being said as a way to manipulate another.
However, for the person that can’t accept them it doesn’t matter whether they are genuine or not; because they are being interpreted in the same way regardless.
One may say something to another about how smart they look, how attractive they are or how well they are doing. Only for the other person to feel offended, uncomfortable and that they are being put down based on how they interpret what is being said.
And the operative word here is - Interpretation. To the person who is giving a sincere compliment there is likely to be one outcome in mind. And that involves sharing their view and making the other person feel good about themselves.
Upon hearing a genuine compliment, one can do one of three things. This is to accept it, reject it or take it the wrong way..
The reason that compliments are not always heard for what they are is that they are often interpreted through ones ego mind.
And how something is interpreted will largely depend on the associations that one has around what is being communicated to them. These associations can range from meanings that are: positive, negative, dysfunctional and functional.
As result of people having different associations for words, facial expression or vocal tones for example; it is then a natural consequence that compliments can trigger different meanings for people.
The challenge here is that these associations are part of a process that generally goes on unconsciously and out of one’s awareness. So it is rarely an option to question whether they are accurate or not.
It is for this reason that it won’t matter how true and empowering the compliment is. As the only thing the other person will experience is what is being triggered by their ego mind and not the true meaning of it.
This makes it a lot easier to understand the reason why some people can reject a sincere compliment or even take in a negative way. No matter how true the compliment is it won’t be going in; all it will do is bounce off.
What usually forms these associations is an experience or experiences during ones adult years or when one was a child. This one experience or the accumulation of experiences will then define how one responds to compliments. These may have been extremely traumatic or may just have had a strong psychological impact.
Being around friends, colleagues or family that are negative can have a negative effect on one’s self image. It may be due to a one of occurrence or simply an accumulation of small things. And before one knows it, self doubt starts to arise within.
Although before one could accept a compliment; as a result of these experiences or an experience, it become a struggle. And something that is questioned and no longer accepted.
For people who had caregivers that were slightly or extremely abusive, it is likely that they had numerous experiences that would have formed a disempowering self image. Having a caregiver who was slightly critical and judgemental would also have done this.
And it is not even something that needs to be traumatic; just accumulative experiences that seem insignificant can be enough to affect ones idea about who they are. One experience that had a traumatic affect can also lead to problems.
These experiences will have lowered one sense of self worth. Feelings of being unworthy, not good enough or inferior can be consequences.
And now it doesn’t matter what kind of compliments are received, as they are all interpreted in a way that mirrors the dysfunctional perspective that one has of themselves. The other person may be perceived as being manipulative and insincere even when this is far from the truth.
To be able to accept compliments and to know the difference between ones that genuine and ones that are not, one needs to let go of the past associations. Through doing this it will be a lot easier to be present and to respond appropriately to each situation.
For some people it may require processing some deep trauma and for others simply being aware of how they are reacting to compliments; and from here consciously choosing to respond differently.
There is plenty of assistance available; from therapy, books and speaking to someone who one trusts about this challenge. Thereby making the unconscious conscious and from here everything can change.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.