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Five Great Lessons from Finishing School: Pt 2 Merci Mercy Me (ugh) | Manolo for the Big Girl

Five Great Lessons from Finishing School: Pt 2 Merci Mercy Me (ugh)

“Thank you.”

“Oh thank you! You’ve just made my day!”

“Stop, stop.  I couldn’t listen to more than another hour of this.”

“Well, one tries.”

“You’re too kind.”

“Can you write that down? I want to send it to my mother.”

“Aren’t you the sweetest thing?”

“Well, a girl’s gotta have a hobby.

Those are just some of my tried-and-true ways of accepting a compliment, today’s finishing school lesson.  For some reason we are just not taught how to respond graciously to a compliment.

It

drives

me

INSANE.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve told a girlfriend she looked fantastic only to have her automatically touch her hair or make a face and respond “No, I look awful.”

It takes all my generations of breeding and counting to ten not to snatch her bald and say “Listen, I’ve got better taste than you do. I’ve ALWAYS had better taste than you do,  so when I say you look nice, shut up and say ‘thank you’ because people pay me a LOT of money for my approval and it doesn’t come easily.”

And while I understand women are conditioned to deflect any compliment because GOD FORBID a woman think highly of herself (or worse, actually be BETTER than someone else) denying a honestly-paid compliment is one thing and one thing only:

Rude.

Okay two things: rude and stupid.

Wait, three:  rude and stupid and annoying.

When you fail to accept a compliment graciously, it’s an insult to the person who paid it.

You wouldn’t go up to someone and say “Hi, you know your favorite green cardigan? It’s awful. Seriously. It looks like a tennis ball sexually assaulted your grandma.”  (well, I’d say that, but you all are nicer than I am) because obviously they LIKE the sweater and you don’t just go up to people and tell them they have bad taste, even if they really really deserve it.

This is doubly true in states with concealed handgun laws.

See, it doesn’t matter whether you believe the compliment or not. If someone says you have a lovely singing voice and you say you sound like a frog, what you’re telling this person is they have bad taste in music.

Rude.

So, next time, instead of making an ass of yourself, make  A ASS of yourself:

Acknowledge – body language, a nodded head or a hand to the chest (preferably your chest) conveying you heard what they said and it’s touched you.

Accept – the actual words you use, “Thank you” is a good start. Keep it brief.

Smile – a smile lets them know they’ve made you happy, even if you don’t believe them

Shut up – Don’t devalue the compliment or try to repay it. You don’t want them to feel like they were fishing for a compliment of their own.

That’s it.

Feel free to use some of my favorites, but you’ll want to be careful with using humor at first since it’s so easy to be self-deprecating. Do your best to just say “Thank you” until you feel more comfortable.

Good luck!

26 Responses to “Five Great Lessons from Finishing School: Pt 2 Merci Mercy Me (ugh)”

  1. Violet April 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    THANK YOU.

  2. mini_pixie April 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    This is so important! I do not remember who, but in high school a boy complimented me and I argued with him. He took me to task, saying “you really need to learn how to take a compliment” and I’ve never ever forgotten it. It really does seem rude to the person who is trying to be nice to you when you argue, discount or devalue what they said.

    And after some practice, I’ve found that not only can I sound sincere when thanking someone, I’ve started to feel sincere. Like I’m worthy of the compliment. And that is a great feeling! Allowing yourself to be proud and have a moment to shine is a good thing.

    The only thing I would add is once you know how nice it is to receive and accept a compliment, see if you can give one to someone who might need / deserve it and not hear one often enough.

  3. Cat April 21, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    I’ve always been very awkward about accepting compliments, but I must be getting better at it, because I received one last week and I responded to it exactly as you instruct. A sweet, elderly lady stopped me in the grocery store to say, “I just have to tell you something, dear. You have beautiful skin and beautiful hair. Your coloring is just gorgeous. You remind me of my granddaughter. God bless you.” I tilted my head toward her, smiled, said “Thank you!” and wished her a nice day.

  4. Mrs. Hendricks April 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    This is truly a great lesson, and one that we should be reminded of now and again. Thanks!

  5. Plumcake April 21, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

    @Cat: Good for you! I’m sure she was doubly impressed by your gracious response.

    @Mini_pixie: George Burns said “Sincerity is everything: if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” That being said, I’m so glad you’re learning to believe compliments, just fake it ’til you make it! Excellent advice about paying attention to opportunities where a kind word might make all the difference.

    @Violetta:
    YOU’RE WELCOME

  6. abdabs April 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    I was just talking to a friend about this on Tuesday. One time at drama class, we had to practice accepting compliments. We had to barrel up to each other with some real or imagined compliment, and the other had to say either “Thank you for noticing!” or “Thank you, I appreciate that.” I thought it was a bit stupid at the time (I was 14), but, by gum, it’s been useful ever since.

  7. Petunia Chowder April 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    This is wonderful! My high school Biology teacher was a terrible battleaxe, but one of the best things she ever did for me was hold up her hand in the middle of one of my frenzies of self-deprecation and say “STOP” before delivering a lecture the likes of which I’ve never heard since. It really brought home the point that turning back a compliment is an insult to the giver and ever since I’ve tried hard to remember that and pass it on where I can.

  8. Jana April 21, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    I think many women struggle with this professionally as well as personally (myself included), and this can stand in the way of getting the recognition that they deserve. For example, I’m a good writer. I tend to get a lot of compliments on my written product, but personally I’m not really shooting for “good” and am often not quite happy with things that my supervisor may love. It was a moment of insight for me when I realized that arguing with compliments on my writing implied that the other person couldn’t recognize good writing! Since then, I have endeavored to thank others sincerely and graciously and then just shut up. Lest my dearly departed grandmother show up in my dreams to scold me for forgetting my manners.

  9. g-dog April 21, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    Yes – it is difficult from many of us to strike that right balance of appreciation of the complimenter & humility/modesty. “Underdog – you’re humble & loveable” – “bless you sir”

  10. Kristen April 21, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    YES. God, THANK YOU.

    It drives me insane to hear women insult themselves after I compliment them. INSANE.

  11. TeleriB April 22, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    Oh my goodness. I hang with a lot of amateur musicians in my re-enactment group, and it’s my personal mission to get them to add “Thank you! I’m so glad you liked it” into their vocabulary. “That was lovely!” is not an invitation to demean yourself in front of your audience.

  12. chachaheels April 22, 2010 at 8:04 am #

    I completely agree–turning back a compliment is insulting. Saying thank you is a simple and gracious way to respond. It’s like turning away a gift or an offering–it shouldn’t be done, it doesn’t show humility as it may be part of the giver’s “path” to give you the gift. Don’t stand in that person’s way by turning it back or saying something less than appreciative.

    At the same time, I wonder how many of us react in this unhappy way because we know from experience that so many compliments are given in insincerity? How many of us have heard the bitchy Meany say something critical in confidence about another, then march up to the person they just criticized to “compliment” them on that very thing?

  13. The gold digger April 22, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    In the same vein, I finally learned (and taught my husband) that the appropriate response to being offered food we do not like is, “No thank you.” No further comment. If pressed, one says, “It’s not my favorite,” not “I hate that.” Thank you my Alabama friend Leigh for that wisdom.

  14. Leigh April 22, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    Too true! But, Plumcake, aren’t you the one who responded to a reader’s compliment on your beauty with, “But in real life I look like a cartoon frog!” :)

  15. Katie April 22, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    While you’re at it, can we also acknowledge that the correct answer to “thank you” is “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure” and NOT “no problem.” Sorry, pet peeve.

  16. Plumcake April 22, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    @Leigh And I love my cartoon frogginess!

  17. Peaches April 22, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    While we are talking etiquette: “shut up” and a listing of what you “hate” are not polite in any company. Humor used or not.

  18. Thea April 22, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    Thank you Plumcake, you made my day yet again.

    John Steinbeck once wrote that a person who can accept a gift graciously is giving a great gift back to the giver.

    And we ladies need to thank our benefactors, not make them feel stupid.

  19. chachaheels April 22, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    Oh, Katie, that “no problem” is a big pet peeve of mine, too. I bite my tongue, but I want to lecture people who do this on the difference between “you’re welcome”, “it was my pleasure”, and “no problem”.

  20. Sara April 22, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    Thank you for writing that down, I’m going to send it to my mother. :) “No, I look old/fat/ridiculous.” Ugh, woman, stop insulting my taste.

  21. Kate K April 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    So if someone tells me that they like my bag or my shoes or my coat, I always say thank you BUT I also tell them where I bought it. Maybe it’s because I’m a librarian (I am very informative) and a die-hard shopper who loves a good deal but I feel like I should be telling people that I got my adorable flats at Target. But, is that uncouth? Or overly informative? Or a weird way of dismissing their compliment? Should I just say “Thank you” and leave it at that? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  22. Plumcake April 23, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    @Katie. I wouldn’t say it’s uncouth, but it is a little risky so I wouldn’t volunteer it. You’re assuming the person has the same amount of discretionary income and values you do and I’m not sure that’s especially prudent.

  23. Kemi April 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    Thank you for this guide because until the past few years, I’ve always deflected compliments and suspected ulterior motives. Until someone like you pointed out that I’m actually insulting the person that gave me the compliment in the first place.

    Now I generally say thank you, look a little nervous/uncomfortable and smile. (I’m working on the not looking so uncomfortable part)

    I hope someone else takes your advice and graciously accepts a compliment the next time they get one.

  24. Kelley April 25, 2010 at 1:08 am #

    THANK YOU. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I used to have a friend who deflected every compliment I gave her. “Your hair looks nice!” I’d say. “GOD, it’s all greasy and gross,” she’d reply. It was like any nice thing I said just made her more miserable.

  25. Tiff April 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    I’ve been offline for a couple of days and am just now getting through my RSS reader but I love this series. I recall reading one of Stephen Fry’s blog pieces in which he recalled transgressing exactly this way, and John Cleese took him aside and lectured him on it soundly, saying more or less exactly what you just said. Fry never forgot it and made it a point to be more gracious in the future. (I KNOW, can you imagine someone needing to lecture Stephen Fry on how to be more fabulous?)