Wanna know a secret, internet?
While I may appear incredibly smooth, composed, hip and unbelievably likable on the internet (humor me) the truth is that I am a hopelessly awkward weirdo.
I can hold polite conversation well enough, but when I have to speak at length to people I don’t know well I get a little uneasy. I sweat, I blush and I have to remind myself to make eye contact and smile. I ramble and talk really fast. Sometimes I say things a little too bluntly and they come out sounding vaguely insulting. It’s a hot mess, but I try to be conscious of all of it and remember that my social graces are, and may always be, a work in progress.
But there’s one thing that is the bane of my social existence, that makes me recoil and squirm, eyes darting around frantically, looking for an exit. Like a squirt bottle pointed at a corned cat.
And I get them from time to time, because I’m smart and kind of fun to hang out with and pleasant to look at. And I absolutely can’t handle them. Having a spotlight shone on me that way makes me want to curl up in the fetal position.
It’s a thing I’m working on and I like to develop a structured gameplan for things I’m working on. If you, too, respond to compliments like a shifty sociopath, here are some things I’ve learned that may help you.
1. First, accept that they’re sincere
If they didn’t mean it, they wouldn’t say it. I don’t walk around giving people fake compliments. Do you? Probably not. Knowing that…
2. Resist all urges to:
Belittle the thing being complimented.
“Oh, this dress is like 8 years old! And I got it at Goodwill! On sale! Look, there’s a hole in it!”
No no no.
“Oh, but really, Megan did all the work. I barely helped!”
You can pat Megan AND yourself on the back at the same time. There’s plenty of snaps to go around.
Claim it was luck.
“Oh really, I was just at the right place at the right time. It could have been anybody!”
Sure. But it wasn’t. It was you.
Make them argue with you.
“Oh no, my act was terrible. I’m surprised I wasn’t booed offstage!”
Those are all the wrong reactions to a compliment. They’re ungrateful and, frankly, rude.
This person is giving you praise and you’re telling them they’re wrong? Stop doing this. It sounds simple, but that part is the absolutely hardest. The good news is, the right thing to say is much simpler.
3. Here is your go-to response.
Seriously. Throw all those excuses out the window and concentrate on perfecting the Thank You and Smile.
Thank You and Smile.
You are not a psycho if you actually need to do this in front of a mirror. For we socially awkward birds, this is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Practice it. Thank You and Smiiiiiiiiile until you can say it like you haven’t just had painful dental work.
“Thank you, that’s so nice of you to say.”
“Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it.”
“Thank you, I really appreciate that.”
“Thank you, Megan helped too. Wasn’t she great?” (bonus points for paying it forward!)
Your homebase is the Thank You. You may embellish the Thank You, but do not stray from the Thank You.
It is not required nor expected of you, in any social situation that you should want to involve yourself in, to make excuses for your own wonderfulness or shirk responsibility for your accomplishments. Get ok with politely acknowledging that yes, you are awesome.