Yesterday, as we were wrapping up an incredible week of learning and growth, I had a moment. An in-the-moment test of a lesson I’d learned years ago, and I almost flunked.
Eight years ago, after delivering a full-day program, a participant came up to me with a massive smile on her face thanking me for the day. She specifically shared one part of the program that completely changed her way of thinking about something and how much my perspective and story impacted her.
My response? “Oh, OK, but I forgot to add the one part of the story! I missed a part!”
Woman: “Oh, no, it doesn’t matter. It really made me think about things differently.”
Me: “But I normally drive the point home a different way…”
This continued back and forth for a few minutes; all the while, she kept trying to convince me of the impact I’d had on her, and I kept trying to talk her out of it.
She finally walked away with this annoyed look on her face, and I remember thinking, “What’s her problem?!”
Later in my hotel room, I realized I was the problem. She had a legitimate experience, and I had completely invalidated it. She was trying to say thank you. I was trying to deflect the compliment and feedback because that seemed easier than taking credit for her having a transformational moment.
From that moment forward, I have trained myself to say “thank you” when I receive a compliment. It’s not arrogant. It’s not not being humble. It’s acknowledging my impact on that person and their thoughtfulness in sharing their experience.
Cue yesterday afternoon.
This week, I facilitated a three-day Presenting with Impact workshop for ten leaders. I’m currently in my exhilarated-exhausted mode (and why you’re getting the Thur-Friday version of this newsletter. 😉) The whole experience was incredible. The participants were open to all of it–the activities, the teaching, the concepts. They had three chances to present, and the change from day one to day three was remarkable. Most of them vaguely knew each other before entering the classroom. By yesterday, they were a tight-knit group celebrating what they had accomplished and the new relationships and connection they had made within the company.
After we finished, a few of the participants stayed and came up to say thank you. Their comments were so thoughtful, so caring, so appreciative…I felt it.
I felt the urge to say, “No, it was you guys that were great.” I felt the urge to deflect. I felt the urge to dismiss their words.
As they shared, I felt my stomach clench. I felt this weird inner tension.
This time, I knew it was a great week (the participants were great!) So why was I feeling like I had to deflect? I realized it was because I didn’t want to seem arrogant. I didn’t want to not seem humble.
As I was struggling to remember the lesson from years ago, as saying “thank you” seemed so insignificant, I realized another lesson was brewing.
I realized that last time I made that lady feel like an asshole. This time, I realized I was setting myself up to be the asshole.
I work hard preparing my workshops. Those in the know might say I work TOO hard in prepping and preparing. My process might not be described as the smoothest and most joy-filled. 😬
At that moment yesterday, when I was finding it hard to say thank you, I realized graciously accepting their praise was a way to thank myself. It was me, acknowledging to me that I had put in a lot of hard work. I had poured into that group over the last few days. Their generous words proved that I had created the impact I set out to create.
For them–and for me–the only acceptable response was, “Thank you.”
Thank you to them for their thoughtfulness. Thank you to me for the work I put in for it to be such a success.
Just as I had dismissed that lady years ago, if I dismissed the hard work I put in, why would I be motivated to do it the next time?
Maybe, just maybe, acknowledging my work and believing my work would make that treacherous process a little less so the next go-round.
(I’m fighting the cringe factor now as I feel like this newsletter is a humble brag in and of itself; if you read it as that, cool, but not my intent.)
Next time someone gives you praise and you want to talk them out of it, say thank you.
It’s not arrogant. It’s not obnoxious.
It’s owning your hard work for what you did to receive that praise.
It’s reinforcing to yourself that hard work pays off.
When someone acknowledges your hard work, anything less would be dismissing them AND your work.
It might feel weird.
It might feel insignificant.
But it’s powerful, and works for them, and you.