On parent night at my child’s school, I overheard someone compliment a teacher on the way her classroom was decorated. The teacher's response to the compliment was a remark that it was nothing special and that she had used the theme once before.
Have you ever given someone a compliment, only to have the other person tell you that she got it off the clearance rack at a local clothing store? How did her reply make you feel in that moment? Did you feel energized to provide more or did you feel a sudden let down that your compliment was a waste of time and not accepted?
As a teacher, how often do you compliment your paraprofessional or your director? What about your own children or your significant other? Sometimes it seems like we give more compliments to others than we do to our own family. And what about you; what do you say when someone compliments you, something you did to your classroom, or your outfit? Have you noticed that you too provide a response that minimizes the gift you just received?
I think we do this because something in our subconscious takes over to reduce the attention we are suddenly getting, or it may even reveal how we really feel about our outfit or our classroom at the moment. But I ask you to consider what the other person may be feeling, the person who just gave you a gift.
What about when someone gives you an idea for your classroom? Do you immediately think of the stress it will cause, the work it will take, what won't get done if you take this on, the money it will take to do it, the time it will take away from other things, and on and on and on? Do you then tell the idea-giver why it won’t work or why you can’t take another thing on? Are you an idea-generator and find yourself thinking up and offering ideas to others? How does it make you feel when the idea you've given the other person is rejected?
I don't blame those who reject compliments or ideas, as I use to feel the same things when others gave them to me. But I learned to adapt to the fact that when someone gives me a compliment, they are taking the time to give me a gift. And if it’s an idea, they are just giving me information that I can choose on my own to take action on or ignore. It’s all up to me; it’s just information.
When someone gives you a gift, you might immediately think about the fact that you really don't like it. But I ask you to consider being gracious and say thank you and look like we are thankful. I do my best to do the same thing with ideas; see them as gifts. I've learned to remain quiet, listen, and then say “Isn't that interesting, thanks for the idea.” I often times write down these ideas because I may think differently about them at a later time.
Remember, whether someone gives you a compliment, an idea or feedback, it’s all just information that you are free to do anything you want with. But smile and say “Thank You” for the gift you just received.
Bill Corbett has a degree in clinical psychology and is the author of the award winning book “Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids,” in English and in Spanish. He is happily married with three grown children, two grandchildren, three step children, and lives in Connecticut. You can visit his Web site www.CooperativeKids.com for further information and parenting advice.