How To Accept A ComplimentPosted: September 17, 2012
Some time ago, a teacher gave me a valuable lesson. He taught me how to accept a compliment. I forget the lesson now and again. When I do, a moment spent reflecting on those few minutes in the classroom brings me back to the correct way to respond.
I learned the lesson in a sixth grade classroom. I was twenty-six years old when this happened.
It is probably important to clarify that I completed the sixth grade before I was twenty-six. Getting out of the sixth grade before my mid-twenties was a goal my parents set for me. I can proudly say I met that goal. Don’t be afraid to help your kids aim high. Don’t stop believin’.
Now, back to our story.
My Job Description
I was doing drug education in the public schools. This drug education gig was pretty sweet. I bounced around between different elementary schools daily. I had an hour per week in each sixth grade class.
Most teachers stayed in the room, watching over things and grading papers. A few adventurous educators would leave their classes in my hands. However they handled my time in their classrooms didn’t matter to me. The classes that were well-behaved usually stayed that way. The ones that were not would not reach meltdown stage until I was close to being finished with my hour.
I gained a healthy respect for teachers. Teaching is hard. What I did was easy. I had pre-written lesson plans. There were no hassles with parents contesting grades because I didn’t give any. I just showed up, did the lesson of the week and left. I also met some great kids, and some amazingly dedicated educators.
Rob was one of those amazing teachers. His class was always focused. The students, faculty and parents loved the guy. He gave the kids his best effort and concern, they gave back results.
Where some teachers were in their own world while I was in their rooms, he would interrupt to add to what I was saying. When Rob would relate a classroom incident from a few weeks earlier to a lesson I was presenting, it would make a world of difference. I could see the kids react and knew what he said made a difference.
I was working in Rob’s room one fall morning. The class was going well, the kids were getting it. Then it became my turn to learn.
I Receive A Complimentary Lesson, Complimentary.
Try as I might, I don’t remember the compliment the student gave me. He raised his hand, I called on him and he said something in the neighborhood of “I like the way you…”.
Being humble seemed the best approach to handling compliments, or so I thought. I smiled, shrugged, and gave a sort of “aw shucks, it ain’t nothing, it’s part of the job” answer.
From the back of the room, I heard a roar of STOP! I looked back at the teacher, then around the room to see who I hadn’t noticed misbehaving. The class looked back at Rob, then turned and faced the front when it was clear to all of us that the one who’d screwed up was the guy standing in front of them. I had no idea what I’d done.
He asked what I’d just said. I looked at my lesson plan and started to paraphrase something about peer pressure or whatever I was speaking about. “No. He said he liked how you… And you said?”
I repeated my attempt to humbly deflect the student’s kind words. Rob shook his head.
“That is not the way to accept a compliment. He went out of his way to say something nice to you. You responded by denying it. That’s a little insulting, don’t you think?” I admitted that it might be. He asked the class “what do you say when someone gives you a compliment?”
They all responded “thank you”.
It seems that he’d been seeing me come into his school for two years and reacting the way I did to compliments from students and staff. It also seemed that it’d been decided that I was not going to do that anymore.
He told me that he wanted me to stand there in front of the class while the students took turns complimenting me. The rule was that I could not say anything but thank you. At that point the class pulled out papers, with compliments they’d written about me. I’d been set up.
Because I’d been told to, I stood there and dutifully said thank you as the sixth grade class took turns saying nice things about me. It was uncomfortable and it was effective.
What those children said was from their hearts and their observations of me. It was the truth. I was all of those things. There was nothing wrong with my accepting what they were saying. Looking back on it, I realize that I was good at accepting criticism that others directed at me. I don’t know why I (and so many others) accepted criticism as the truth, but felt a compliment was something I should deny.
I’ve kept the lesson of that day. When I hear nice things about myself, it seems natural to express appreciation instead of denial. Sometimes I slip. I’ll catch myself issuing an “aw shucks”. It hasn’t happened again in front of a room full of kids and a teacher who saw a way to help me and his students. I’m glad it happened that one time.
Do yourself a favor today. Smile and say thank you.