Taking in the Kind Words

At a breakfast meeting, a woman tells me I did a terrific job on a project.

Oh, I say, tea in hand, it was a team effort.

No, she says, and the force in her voice surprises me. She continues: It needed a driver and you drove it. Own that.

I put the tea down. Thank you, I tell her. The urgency in my voice surprises me. Thank you, I say again.

And what I’m really saying is thank you for not letting me get away with being demure. Thank you for making me take credit. Thank you for reminding me that it’s not arrogant to own our work; it is accurate.

We get socialized to deflect kind words.

It was nothing, we say. We point out the flaws: I forgot a bunch of my lines, there were so many typos, I went on too long.

While we don’t get socialized to digest kind words, we do, ironically, get socialized to digest unkind words. But if we can learn to take in kind words, they can be an aloe for the hot heat of unkind words.

Plus, when someone gives us kind words, that’s a mark of their appreciation. Something we did touched them. If we deflect what they say, it’s like we’re deflecting their appreciation. Which isn’t the kindest response to kind words.

So, next time someone offers us kind words, there are a few things we can try.

Put down our tea and listen to what they say. Believe it. Bask in it the way a cat basks in unblocked sunlight. And respond with a full-throated, Thank You. Maybe say it twice. Or add an, I appreciate that.

Later, jot the kind words down in a journal, share them with a friend, replay them in our mind. It all helps us really savor, digest, extend the lifespan of them.

We’re not dependent on the kind words of others; we are whole without them. What we are doing is effortfully helping them sink in since the unkind words too often sink in without any effort.

And, we are flaunting our socialization, and owning our work in the world.

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