In one of my coaching sessions, a client and I were exploring what it would look like to have more acknowledgements in her life.
First off, I love that idea. Is there a thing as too much acknowledgement? If so, I haven’t found that limit yet.
What was so interesting was what my client had discovered for herself several weeks into her acknowledgment experiment.
Naturally, she started to become much more aware of when she gave out acknowledgements and, more importantly, when others were paying those words toward her.
From that came a big insight for her - she often dismissed others’ compliments, thanks and acknowledgments.
How did she do that?
“No problem, really.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Forget about it, I’m happy to do it.”
Now let’s get something straight - there is nothing wrong with saying any of the sentences above. In fact, there is never anything wrong with any communication. Some communications are more effective and some more confusing than others. Some communications are more healing and some more hurtful than others. Communication isn’t a case of what’s right and wrong, it’s a matter of what works and what doesn’t work.
But what my client noticed was that when people were passing her thanks—whether she did them a favour, cooked them a delicious meal, or spent 15 minutes on the phone with them—she would say one of the lines above. And when she checked in with herself, she could tell that she was pushing away peoples’ kind words.
This is such a natural and common response.
The following excerpt from the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg perfectly encapsulates this phenomenon:
“For many of us, it is difficult to receive appreciation gracefully. We fret over whether we deserve it. We worry about what’s being expected of us—especially if we have teachers or managers who use appreciation as a means to spur productivity. Or we’re nervous about living up to the appreciation. Accustomed to a culture where buying, earning, and deserving are the standard modes of interchange, we are often uncomfortable with simply giving and receiving.”
There is a huge impact to this behaviour. When we can’t hear others’ kind words, we come down harder on ourselves. We grow less confident, have lower self-esteem, and end up with less compassion for ourselves and, ultimately, for others.
I encourage you to bring awareness to this aspect of your life. Where are you pushing away the acknowledgment of others’ words? Can you see opportunities to embrace these words instead of pushing them away?
The next time someone acknowledges you, rather than saying your automatic, “No problem,” pause. Take a moment to soak in their thanks. And follow that with a warming and heartfelt, “You’re welcome.”