Saying Thanks Gracefully

Near the end of my last pregnancy, I was at the post office with my girls to pick up a package. The line moved slowly, giving us plenty of time to observe the posters of decorative postage stamps in the otherwise plain white environment. The wait also allowed us to watch other customers, especially the young man directly in front of us. Muscular, tattooed calves beneath army cargo shorts. Black sweatshirt with an ominous mixed martial arts logo. Hood pulled up, then pulled down to reveal his shaved head and tattoos along the back of his neck and scalp.

He was tough. I suspect that he could have run though a chain link fence, uninjured.

In between games of "I Spy" and hoisting Brooke higher up my hip, I waited for Reese to begin questioning: Why did that boy color his legs and head? Why is his so shirt mean looking? Instead, as the line circled closer to the front counter, he turned and smiled at the girls. Brooke immediately whispered a sweet, "Hi." Reese told him that we were picking up a package from her grandma, which he then offered to carry since my arms already were full.

Minutes later, the four of us walked to my car. He was graduating in two months (mechanical engineering), teaching karate classes, and job searching. He carefully shut the trunk after lowering our package and kindly closed the door after I had buckled Brooke into her car seat. "Good luck with your pregnancy. You have two really sweet girls," he said.

I thanked him, and then for some unknown reason, tagged on, "They do have their moments, but they're really great girls." As I drove away, I replayed the conversation in my head. Why, upon receiving such an authentic compliment, did I add a disclaimer to my acceptance of it? It's not the only time I have done this.

I'm not the only one who does it, either. Many women hesitate to accept compliments with the same simplicity in which they're given.

I like your shirt. Oh, thank you. I picked it up at the thrift store.

You look like you've lost weight. Yeah, I still have some more pounds to go, though.

Nice hair cut! Thanks, it's not bad today, but you should see it when it's humid out.

Dismissing or discrediting a compliment robs pleasure from the person who offered it. In my case, it also stole the opportunity for my girls to be genuinely praised for good behavior while waiting in line. I've determined that it's important to learn the art of accepting compliments for what they are, to gracefully say thanks -- and then to say nothing more. No explanations, no false modesty, no utterances of real doubt. To just accept.

As we drove away from the post office, we passed the young man on the street. Reese, Brooke, and I each waved. "He was a really nice boy, wasn't he, Mommy?" Reese asked.

Yes, yes he was. Period.


  1. I love this post! As a female, not only do I have a hard time accepting a compliment... I always feel like I have to compliment back! My goal is to accept the next compliment someone gives me with a smile and a "thank you"! I really love your blog!!

    - Stephanie

  2. yes! my high school choir teacher reprimanded all of us one day for not taking compliments well, and it's always stuck with me. not that i don't do exactly what you described, but at least i think about it and try. lovely writing! oh, and i also love how this guy's kindness and service blew away his tough image. awesome.


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