• jkador

Maxim #4-—Lean Into Both Compliments and Criticism

Living a responsive life requires me to have an authentic relationship with both compliments and criticism.

That means embracing—leaning into—both the positive and negative with equal enthusiasm.


One is relatively easy; the other, infernally difficult.


Maxim #4 addresses a common disconnect in the society’s relationship to compliments and criticism.


The reality is we often dispute one and reject the other.


Compliments are gifts. Why, then, do we dispute them?


Boss: “Congratulations, Sam. You did a great job on the presentation.”


Sam: “I didn’t do that much. It was a team effort, really.”


We’ve all seen this kind of response to compliments.


Friend 1: “Pam, you outdid yourself. What a delicious meal!”

Pam: “I guess it was edible. The roast was overdone.”


Why do we believe it is a good idea to minimize or argue with the compliment? Why is it so excruciating to accept a compliment without diminishing ourselves? If it’s modesty, it’s modesty that serves no one.


Maxim #4 challenges whatever gets in the way of my accepting compliments. By leaning in instead of pushing away, I honor both the person offering the compliment as well as myself. Leaning in means explicitly agreeing with the compliment. To reframe the examples from above:

Boss: “Congratulations, Sam. You did a great job on the presentation.”


Sam: “Thanks for noticing. The presentation went off rather well, didn’t it?”


And . . .


Friend 1: “Pam, you outdid yourself. What a delicious meal!”

Pam: “Thanks. Wasn’t the asparagus yummy? I really wanted it to come out perfect.”


The idea is to agree with the compliment. Even raise the stakes a bit. Risk sounding immodest. That risk is required to contradict the impulse to negate or minimize the compliment.


Now, let’s talk about criticism.


No one likes to be criticized. It’s natural to be defensive (it wasn’t my fault) or to minimize (it wasn’t that bad) or rationalize (it was actually good).


Criticism is often the best way to learn about our shortcomings and weaknesses so we can do something about it. The key is to lean into the criticism.


Tell Me More!


The three most important words you should say after receiving a criticism or complain is “Tell me more!”


Regard the criticism or complaint as a valuable source of information. Encourage it rather than hide from it.


Why should I want to encourage more criticism? Criticism gives me a new perspective and opens my eyes to things I may have overlooked or never considered.


Most people think that criticism is bad. They mistakenly think that no criticism means no problems. Criticism is actually a sign that people care about us in some way. If they didn’t care, they would simply gossip or ignore us completely.


Rejecting criticism means that we miss some very important information or feedback. If you want to improve a product or service, complaints are indispensable for improvement. If you want to be more effective as a person, criticism is the key to improve your skills.


At the same time, it’s best not to take criticism personally. Maxim #9—Decide You Don’t Have to Take it Personally—will say more about this. Stay tuned.


Leaning into both compliments and criticism are necessary for an authentic life.