As a communication coach and corporate trainer, I really, really should have known
“You bring such insight and energy!” a training participant would tell me. “You’ve
been such a tremendous support in helping me reach my goals” a coaching client would
comment. My response? “What, this old thing???”
Well, not literally. But I typically gave some reply that took the spotlight off
of me, minimized the compliment, and turned it back around. “Well, YOU were an easy
client to work with!” was a common boomerang response. And with that, we’d either
get into a cringe-inducing back-and-forth about who was really worthy of the praise
– or the conversation would just end – with nobody feeling uplifted.
Accepting praise is a positive sign of self-acceptance. Accepting praise establishes
and develops interpersonal relationships because it requires an exchange of ideas
and opinions. Accepting praise does not mean that you’re done growing or improving
– it simply means that you recognize that someone saw something in you worth acknowledging.
Giving genuine praise feels good. When you reject the praise, you reject the person.
And that feels bad for everyone.
Whether we’re just beginning a relationship, or we’ve been in one for a long time,
we actually give our partner a gift by regarding his or her praise as well-intentioned,
genuine and worthy of accepting.
As part of my own personal and professional development, I decided that my behavior
was neither helpful nor healthy – and certainly not representative of what I would
encourage my clients to do.
In coaching myself, I asked myself a series of questions, and invite anyone who
is “praise repellant” to use these as well for your own reflection, or with a friend,
partner or coach:
- What kind of praise feels most uncomfortable for me to receive? Why?
- What kind of praise feels comfortable for me to receive? Why?
- Am I more comfortable receiving praise from people I know vs. strangers? What about
this might be significant?
- What do I believe about people’s motivations to give me praise?
- Who do I know who receives praise with poise? What can I ask them about this that
might help me?
- How would I really feel if people stopped praising me?
- How does giving genuine praise make me feel?
- How might I feel if I just accepted the praise? Undeserving? Egotistical? Needy?
- What would I want someone to say when I praise them?
For me, the final question was by far the easiest one to answer. I would want someone
to say “thank you.” In fact, as a result of that question, that’s what I say – “Thank
you. I love my job” or “Thank you. That means a lot to me” or “Thank you. I really
appreciate it.” Or just “thank you” -- always making sure that my body language
includes a genuine smile, great eye contact and a physical tilt towards the person
giving me the praise.
When you ask yourself the questions above, see what surprises you or concerns you.
Then ask yourself:
- What implicit or explicit messages are you sending your potential mates, current
partner, family, friends and work colleagues about your self-acceptance and self-esteem
in how you accept or reject their praise?
- What messages are you sending them about how much you value their opinions and feelings
in how you accept or reject their praise?
- What do you want to do differently? Who can help inform you and support you in this?
- When are you going to start engaging in your new behavior?
- What will success look like and feel like?
And for all of you who have taken the time to read, reflect and perhaps re-envision
what gracefully receiving praise can do for your relationships, I say, “Terrific
Deborah Grayson Riegel, MSW, is the Head Coach of MyJewishCoach.com, and
helps Jewish organizations and individuals achieve personal and professional "Success
without the Tsuris" through coaching, training and speaking.
Deborah’s energetic workshops and speaking programs are in high demand with North
American Jewish organizations, Fortune 500 companies, national and local government
agencies, and small start-ups, and her one-on-one coaching has propelled Jewish
professionals across industries and interests to get farther, faster.
Deborah was the Director of Education and Training for the Mandel Center for Leadership
Excellence at United Jewish Communities (UJC), where she developed innovative training
programs for Federation professionals and lay-leaders, and co-authored an award-winning
interactive solicitation training website. Deborah also worked at the Jewish Association
for Services for the Aged (JASA) as the Director of the only program in North America
that trains senior citizens to be lobbyists. In addition, Deborah was a key player
in the development of New York’s Makor/Steinhardt Center for young Jewish professionals.
Deborah is on the faculty for both the Wexner Heritage Program and Yeshivat Chovevei
Torah Rabbinical school. A popular conference speaker for both the American Society
of Training and Development and Training Magazine’s Conference and Expo, Deborah
was awarded membership into the National Speakers Association in 2005. She is also
a member of the Association of Jewish Community Organization Professionals, the
Jewish Communal Service Association, and the International Coach Federation. Deborah
is a graduate of Coach U. and is a Certified DiSC® Practitioner.
Deborah’s expertise in developing training and coaching for professionals and lay
leaders in the Jewish communal world was highlighted when she authored “Corporate
Universities in the Non-Profit Sector”, a chapter in the book The Next Generation
of Corporate Universities (Allen, Ed, Wiley 2007).
Deborah earned a B.A. in Psychology at the University of Michigan, and her M.S.W.
at Columbia University, supporting her expensive school habit by performing improvisational
and stand-up comedy.
She and her husband Michael are the proud parents of twins, Jacob and Sophie, who
inspire her to choose naches over tsuris everyday.
For more information, visit www.MyJewishCoach.com
or email Deborah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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