A masterful appreciation involves sensitive awareness – the practice of noticing details, and highlighting them. That’s the role of the person giving/ delivering the appreciation. But what about the person receiving the positive information? From your experience, you will know that it is easier to appreciate, than to receive it.

Usually an unconscious process, we often use internal and external strategies to refuse appreciation. Although people (88%) associate recognition with a feeling of being valued, nearly 70% of them associate embarrassment or discomfort with the process of being recognized.

Building a culture of appreciation has been an area of research for Diana Chapman, founder of Conscious Leadership Group. She’s found five ways in which people usually deflect appreciation:

  1. Heeding to the inner critic. Whether we want it or not, our instant response to any positive feedback, is avoidance. The critical voice inside us says, “Oh, she is not speaking the truth. If she was right, I would have performed better. Or would have received more appreciations.”
  2. Handing off the compliment. Someone appreciates you for handling a customer complaint masterfully, and you say, “It wasn’t really me. It was David over there who gave me the right advice.” Though it is important to acknowledge everyone’s contribution, deflecting a compliment is a sign of insecurity with our abilities.
  3. Downgrading our work. “This was good but not great. I’ll try doing it perfectly next time,” is an example of comparing our current work to an ideal we haven’t met. This takes away from our accomplishments and successes, creating a sense of insufficiency.
  4. Dismissing appreciations. No matter how well you’ve done, if someone appreciates you and you say, “Oh this is nothing. Anyone can perform like this,” you’re calling your work unnoteworthy.
  5. Reciprocating instantly. The moment you receive a praise, you respond by saying, “Oh you’re the kindest person for saying that. I appreciate you more than ever!” This makes appreciations transactional.

You might relate to one or more of the above behaviors. And we all do it! So how can we receive praise gracefully? Psychiatrist Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen, has some ideas:

  • Relate to recognition as though it were a gift. For example, if someone were to gift you a pair of socks, whether or not you like it, you’ll accept it, right? Praise is no different.
  • If you catch yourself diverting the compliment, go back and thank them. Tell them, “I am working on being better at accepting compliments. Thank you for what you said earlier.”
  • When others divert recognition, gently point it out. By doing this, you interrupt their conditioned response, and help them develop their ability to accept compliments.

The more we receive praise, the more we can give it. So, catch yourself if you are deflecting it.

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