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But Thanks

Two 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!”

"Cool! IPIN

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. We show them in photos how beautiful they look in person.PIN“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!

Lance Taylor

A former Korean translator and cyber warrior (yes, that's a real term) for the Air Force, Lance took up photography in 2002. Lover of meat, hater of cilantro, and owner of two tri-pawd dogs, he spends his time photographing clients, friends, and models. Occasionally, he writes things on Facebook, and by occasionally, he means regularly, loquaciously, and prodigiously. He attempts to have more happy days than unhappy and surrounds himself with positivity.

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  • May 22, 2014 - 10:20 PM

    Stacey Ingram - What great timing for this post. This is something that I am on a journey to work on for myself and had a long discussion with my boyfriend about today. At some point I became a generally negative person about most things in life (always looking for the negative “What-If’s” and not feeling confident in myself most days). It’s a journey for sure and I think accepting compliments is a great place to start. I think it’s also important to pay attention to how we preface questions. For example, I have a bad habit of saying “Does this dress look bad on me?” instead of “Do you like this dress?” or “Isn’t this dress cute on me?”

    Thank you for the reminder that we all need from time to time and that comes at a time when I need to hear it most.ReplyCancel

    • May 22, 2014 - 10:24 PM

      Lance Taylor - The more you accept compliments, the more you’ll start to feel better and realize just how often you weren’t as happy as you wanted to be. You hit the nail on the head about phrasing. We point out our flaws right up front instead of letting other people find them and decide on their own. Crazy!ReplyCancel

  • May 27, 2014 - 11:22 PM

    Sontera - Very well said, I battle with this as well! Not just about physical compliments either. Lately my business has been growing and doing very well. My friends and family seem to notice and have complimented me, saying congrats and ask to hear more about it. I feel bad even being proud of my business… How lame is that?! haha My common response has been “Thanks, I don’t like to talk about it too much because I’m afraid to jinx it.” I’m definitely working on finding a balance with being grateful but not showing off.ReplyCancel

    • May 28, 2014 - 10:20 AM

      Lance Taylor - Isn’t that crazy, Sontera? We condition ourselves so much to think we’re not worthy of praise or pride that we feel “ashamed” of success. Did you work hard to get to where you are? Did you spend late nights editing, refining your pricelist, honing your skills, sending invoices and paying taxes? Then why SHOULDN’T you feel proud of what you’ve accomplished?! Something that helps me on the “not showing off” part is to remember that by sharing my experiences, people may feel inspired to do the same for themselves or take some lesson from my mistakes and create their own path. You earned your success, so don’t be afraid to “accept your own greatness”. 🙂ReplyCancel

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