wo years ago, I made it my mission to be a happier person. I was simply tired of not being happy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a person is capable of being happy all the time. There are simply too many bad things happening in our lives every now and then to always be happy. What I was looking for, however, was a preponderance of happiness.
During my quest to find that happiness, I established a methodical approach to first eliminating those things that made me UNhappy. As I analyzed myself, I realized I had a nasty habit of rejecting or qualifying compliments. Rejecting compliments was easy to identify: I simply refused to accept a compliment by saying “Oh gosh, no, I’m not handsome. I’m hideous!” or “Oh, I’m not that smart. I just fake it really well.”
Qualifying compliments is a little more nefarious, though. It seems like you’re accepting it, but it’s first preceded by a self-criticism. If someone said “Hey, I can tell you’re working out at the gym! Your efforts are paying off!” I would reply “I really need to work on my calves more, but thanks!” or “I would love it if I really was that smart, but I have a lot to learn about computers. Thanks a lot, though!”
Two little words make it a little easier to identify when you’re qualifying compliments: “But thanks!” If your thank yous come with a “but”, you didn’t really accept the compliment.
Let me digress for a moment…since I was 7 years old, my grandmother has been sending me $20 birthday checks. At first, I was like “Cool! I’m buying a few Star Wars action figures!” But then I turned 30 and my thoughts went to “My grandmother is on a fixed income. She can’t afford to give away that $20; she should be spending that on things she needs!”
So I tried telling her that I didn’t want her to send me anymore money because I felt she needed it for herself. I finished my request with a “But thanks for thinking of me.” After some lengthy discussion and insistence from my grandmother that this gesture would not end I realized something: it made her happy to send it to me.
Would that $20 buy me much in today’s economy? Probably not. Could my grandmother sure use the money? Definitely. But I couldn’t get past the fact that it made her happy to give it to me. Just like my grandmother, it makes people happy to pay a compliment, so why would we reject or qualify such a wonderful gift?
Now how does all of this relate to your clients? We’re in the business of beauty and self-acceptance. We give women (and some men) the opportunity to feel, if only briefly but hopefully longer, beautiful to others. We show them in photos how beautiful they look in person. This experience should be a total experience, which includes temporary coaching on self-acceptance. We should pay them compliments, and lots of them. Remind them why they’re here to get photos from us. When they reject or qualify the compliments we give them, and they will, we should gently call them on it. “What’s that? No, no, no, we accept compliments in my studio. Let me hear you say it: ‘Damn I look beautiful!’ Go ahead, say it.”
Each time they reject a compliment, repeat this same procedure. Establish in them a habit of catching themselves. Self-acceptance makes people happy, and don’t we want that for our clients?
Finallly, this self-acceptance doesn’t just apply to clients. It applies to us as well because we live our brand, don’t we? If we’re to be convincing as self-accepting people who are trying to teach others to do the same, we should live this habit and make it our own. Not only should you accept compliments, but internalize them. You have to actually believe them. After all, they were given in sincerity and without prompting (usually).
So what compliments do you find it hard to accept? By the way, you look so amazing today!