It's one of the hardest things in the English language to say – a simple "thank you”.
Most of the time, of course, we have no problem with it. After all, that phrase has been drilled into our heads since we were children – you know, as in, "What do you say to Aunt Gertrude for the nice crocheted bookmark, dear?”
And I certainly don't mean to imply that we're impolite. Far from it. As grownups, whenever somebody does something nice for us, such as holding the elevator door, or letting us cut in front of them in the checkout lane, we don't have to be prompted – our verbal expression of appreciation is automatic. In fact, by this point in our lives most of us are so comfortable with the saying, that we find ourselves tossing ‘thank you's' around all over the place. (Heck, I've even been known to say thank you to the recorded voice who just gave me my current bank balance over the phone!)
But… just let someone pay us a simple compliment, and what happens to those same two little words? They stick in our throats like a couple of foot-long emery boards! And I can prove it.
You see, every Monday morning I meet with a wonderful group of ladies for a Bible study and last week, out of the blue, I showed up in a cute brown sweater with a fashionable wide beaded belt at the waist, and some stylish jean leggings (aka "jeggings”) tucked into a pair of tall sleek brown leather riding boots. Seriously, this look could not have been further from my typical conservative attire than if Queen Elizabeth II had arrived for the opening of Parliament wearing a halter top and moon boots.
Nevertheless, despite the initial shock, my friends enthusiastically greeted my choice of apparel with words like "precious”, "stunning”, "fabulous”, "with it” and "adorable.” And how do you suppose I responded to all these incredible compliments? By ducking, dodging, deflecting and disputing every single one of them! Remarks about my sweater were met with "This color makes me look like a baked potato.” To comments about my jeggings I replied "I'm so ‘bottom heavy' I have no business wearing these.'” And whenever someone admired my boots I would laugh nervously and shout, "Tally ho! I'm late for the fox hunt!”
The weird part is, deep down inside I honestly thought I looked pretty good. So why, when my friends told me so, couldn't I just accept their compliments graciously and say thank you? I don't know for sure, but I have a couple of theories.
For one thing, as much as my mother promoted saying thank you, she also warned against being conceited. One of her favorite sayings (adapted from Ben Franklin, I'm sure) was "a girl who is all wrapped up in herself makes a very small package.” Had I agreed with the ladies who said I looked terrific, somehow – even though she's 84 and lives 1,400 miles away – my mother would have found out, and I'd have never heard the end of it!
Another possibility is that I didn't want to make anyone who was dressed "normally” feel inferior. (Don't over-think that one.) Or it could be that I was just a little embarrassed by all the fuss.
More than likely though, the reason why I shunned all those compliments was that I didn't feel I deserved them. Even worse, I couldn't quite shake my nagging fear that the flatterers were just being nice. I mean, what if my rear-end really was too big to be seen in those shape-hugging pants, but everybody was just too polite to tell me?
Switching gears here (but not really) I wish you knew my friend Becky. We've been buddies since the ninth grade, and not only is she just about the sweetest girl on earth, she is also one of the few people I know who, when you tell her she looks cute, or that you like the outfit she's wearing, will look you straight in the eye and reply with a smile, "Why, thank you!” In doing so, she makes you feel special just for paying her a compliment.
The thing that bothers me most about refusing to accept the kind remarks offered by my friends last week is that I robbed them of the joy of giving me a gift – which is actually what a compliment is. It's a gift.
So the next time someone says something nice about the way you look, don't reply "Honey, you need to have your eyes examined!” Instead, look right at them, give them a great big smile and say "thank you.” Believe me, they'll thank you for doing so!