Particularly inspired with the work that I do currently, I recalled one of my own inspirations – Don Miguel Ruiz – whom I paraphrase thus: “Don’t take insults personally, but don’t take compliments personally either.” Indeed this invites the questions “What should one take personally?” or “How should one take things?”, but I digress…
More to the point, praise or kind words can also destabilize, don’t you find? Here’s a fun exercise: take the last compliment you remember somebody giving you…
That’s it, that’s the exercise. Fun, huh? If you’d like to go further, feel free to… well, to feel. I mean say if the compliment was “you’re the best”, or “you’re really amazing” or “I love it when you’re here!” – well, did you actually take the compliment and feel ‘the best’ or ‘really amazing’ or that touching connection? And do you remember how you replied?
Sure, a lot of people say ‘Thank you’ and some even venture a charmingly confident “I know!”, but how did we actually feel when we got that last admiring comment? The thing is, even if our answer is ‘really amazing’, it would seem that we are taking the compliment personally!
Writer James Faraway tells us of an uncle who reveals “Sometimes we see ourselves in the world, and sometimes we see the world in ourselves”. Well this idea is pretty helpful when receiving (and taking and reorienting) a compliment, and may indeed help in not taking it personally… Try this out if you like, next time you receive a compliment: perceive how much of what the complimenter is recognizing “in you” is actually part of themselves.
This can also be seen as true for receiving verbal attacks. But, say we take Verbal Aikido out of the picture for a minute – because, not only does perceiving compliments with this filter help us to avoid feeling destabilized, but you can also see how it encourages many to be generous with compliments to others!
But positive energy bubbles aside, one of the most fitly inviting responses I witnessed was a deshi who, in a professional context recently, replied to a compliment with “Thank you, would you like my card?” – needless to say, an ideal networking opportunity!
If you’re a green or an orange belt or just want to check it all out, and you’re around for the next workshop, you can prepare for the verbal stretching with both ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’.