Why Introverts Need To Learn To Accept Praise

Anyone who works in a management role in any sizeable corporation surely went through a training on how to provide feedback. Creating a feedback culture is often very high on a list of things leaders want to do. It is important to be able to guide your team so they achieve the required business goals while growing their skillset and capabilities.

In these training sessions you learn not only to provide feedback but there are couple of words said about how to receive a negative feedback. How do you act when someone gives you a well meant and constructive criticism? It is simple, you don’t argue, you don’t try to prove him or her wrong. You listen, and you say politely thank you. Feedback is a gift. You may even ask some clarifying questions just to make sure you got the message right but you don’t judge, you don’t argue. You just receive the message. Then when you have time to think it through you may decide to either ignore the feedback or to take action. It is up to you.

However, there is not much written about the troubles with receiving positive feedback. It might be cultural, since lots of the literature is written by US authors and in North America and some countries in Western Europe you are being conditioned from a young age to receive and in fact even expect positive encouragements and recognitions. No big deal, how difficult it can be to receive words of praise?

Very difficult. At least, when you are an introvert, or when you come from cultures that preach humility and focus on helping others rather than getting into a spotlight yourself. I’m an introvert who comes from a culture that tends to criticize more than praise. I have no problems receiving negative feedback and I always try to get the most from it and improve. What I struggle with is when someone tries to say something positive to me about the work I did.

I feel awkward. I never know what to say and I often believe that the praise is exaggerated. You know, I was just doing my job and is should be given that I did it correctly. Have you ever experienced some of these situations?

Your boss: “This was a great presentation, I was really impressed.”

You: “Umm, thanks. Just doing my job.”

Your colleague: “Thank you so much for helping me with this task. You are a lifesaver.”

You: “Umm, no problem.”

Your boss on a big meeting: “I want to thank Tomas who was leading the charge and made this happen.”

You: “Umm, yeah, it was a team effort.”

By itself, my inability to take praise wouldn’t be a big problem if it wasn’t for the side effects. If someone provides you well-meant praise, they deserve some sort of heartfelt response. More importantly, once you are in a leadership role it is your job to provide well balanced feedback (and that means positive praise) to your team. If you don’t like receiving praise, chances are you are not good and giving it either.

So what can you do to be more comfortable with getting words of encouragement and thanks? It is very simple, just say “thank you” and smile.

This simple act will accomplish several things:

  • It shows you appreciate the thanks – let’s face it, deep inside we all like being appreciated so you are not faking it. If you learn to react this simple way you may even start getting more comfortable with praise and enjoy it. By saying thanks and smiling the person giving you the positive feedback will also feel good. It is a win-win situation.
  • You don’t marginalize the praise – when you try to deflect a compliment by saying things like, “it was nothing,” it may hurt the person giving the praise. Chances are that what you did meant “something” to that person so if you marginalize the praise you are also casting a judgement on the person giving it.
  • It gives you a chance to listen – as with the negative feedback there can be a hidden gold in the information surrounding the compliment. Listen to why the praise is given to you. You may unearth some future opportunities to repeat the good job or even discover some talents you didn’t know you have. Outsiders may see things in you that you don’t, so listening to the feedback and not cutting it short or dismissing is important if you want to understand yourself
  • You embrace it but stay humble – there is always a danger you overplay the response the other way and hype it to the levels not intended. So when you embrace the praise make sure you stay grounded and humble. With simple “thank you” that is exactly what you accomplish.
  • You will learn to enjoy the small things in life – happiness starts with the small things. By accepting praise for small things and learning to enjoy it you will feel better about yourself and the World. You need to realize that others probably don’t compliment you without a reason. You did something that caused the other person to offer a praise so there is no reason why you should feel awkward about it. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal for you, but it might be for someone else. So feel happy for them.
  • It will remind you to praise others – once you realize how good this feels and you stop being uncomfortable about it you will also remind yourself that others may enjoy positive feedback and praise too. That will make you a better colleague and a better leader.

As the author and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith said, “some people have trouble accepting a compliment. Have you ever said something nice about a friend’s attire, and your friend brushes it off with “Oh this? I haven’t worn it in years.” The correct response is “Thank you,” not attacking your judgment and kindness.”

So next time someone gives you a compliment stop fighting it and stop inventing ways to deflect, but smile and just say “Thank You.”


What is your take on accepting feedback? Have you ever felt that you don’t know what to say when someone praises your work? What are your strategies of coping with this?


For more read my blog about management, leadership, communication, coaching, software development and career TheGeekyLeader or follow me on Twitter: @GeekyLeader

Photo: Wokandapix / Pixabay.com

Categories: Communication, Introverts, Life

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