Why is it so hard for women to just say 'thank you'?

At a panel discussion hosted by a prominent global science organisation, I was struck by the unique and vibrant appearance of one of the panellists. She had an audacious, distinctive haircut and an attention grabbing dress sense that appealed to me enormously. At the coffee break, I sought her out. ‘Great haircut and outfit,’ I told her. ‘You look fabulous.’

With a delighted smile, she looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Thank you!’ As I started to walk away, she added, ‘I’ve been practising saying “Thank you” and not deflecting compliments.’

I loved her honesty, and that she’d let me in on her secret piece of personal development.

In her ‘thank you’ stance, this lively, esteemed young scientist accepted the gift of my compliment with lightness and ease. She was in balance, in flow and owning the authentic expression of herself.

How refreshing it is to be on the terra firma of simple, dignified etiquette rather than getting bogged down in the muck of deflection, denial and self-deprecation. Why is it so hard to utter ‘thank you’? Accepting a compliment is an act of presence and the very opposite of arrogance. It is the gracious act of receiving a gift.

Think about the last time someone gave you a gift. Visualise it in its beautiful wrapping. Now imagine that instead of holding the gift with an expression of gratitude and delight, you dodged out of the way and let it drop to the floor! Shocking and insulting, wouldn’t you agree?

Deflecting compliments or praise is the clumsy and tedious equivalent of dropping a gift on the floor. Reframing a compliment as an act of receiving a gift will keep you in the positive mindset of appreciating the gift giver as you reach forward to receive it.

The more you practise, the more fluent you’ll become in the act of appreciative receiving. This is gravitas and presence at its most graceful. The next time someone gives you the gift of a compliment or praise, make their day and just say ‘thank you’. Not another word is needed.

Dr. Diana Theodores is an executive performance coach, speaker and Director of Theatre4Business. Her new book Performing As You: How to have authentic impact in every role you play is out now. To find out more go to:


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