Polishing Gratitude

2013-01-09 20.15.35I will always hold my parents and parochial school teachers in high regard for teaching all who dwelt within the importance of manners. Please and thank you were words learned just shortly after Dada and Momma. The please was more understood and sincere in it’s wanting of something.

As a kid, thank you lost its wonder except maybe at Christmas or birthdays or the OK for an overnight at a friend’s house. Thank you was simply more reflexive to complete the circuit of communication. During the teen years and after, while desperate to belong and stand out at the same time I mistakenly believed it better to be coy, demure, and self depreciating.

Compliments about an achievement or behavior felt both good and awkward. A part of my spirit danced at the recognition and feedback but the larger part of me knew that it was not deserved and likely not true. I mastered the habit of deflecting compliments with an ‘Aww shucks’, ‘It was nothing,’ or ‘No big deal.’ At the time I thought I was a pretty able communicator.

At the very adult, self sufficient age of about 23 I was blessed with a very simple and direct lesson from Jeanne DeJoseph, RN, BSN, and MSN Nurse Midwife. I was tagging along with my roommate Nancy, a nurse midwife student working with Jeanne on a project. Jeanne gave me praise about something and I immediately deflected her compliment. She stopped, positioned herself so we were eye to eye. She said in a calm but direct way, “You don’t have to do that.” “What?” I asked defensively. ‘Downplay the compliment I just gave to you.’ I started with the ‘oh buts’ and she simply said, “Stop.” After a pause she asked, “Why did you do that?” Squirming I said, “I don’t know.” Jeanne said, “Let me tell you how it felt to me.”

“Your response tells me I don’t know what I’m doing and it hurts my feelings that you don’t value my opinion. I feel rejected and a little embarrassed.” She said, “When someone says something nice to you, you don’t have to believe it. Just say Thank You! No ifs,ands, buts, no excuses, Thank you is enough.” She warmly added, “It gets easier with practice and eventually I hope you come to accept praise as the gift it is.” I said, “Thank You.” And then she had me practice before the lesson was over.

This lesson was a new level of recognizing and honoring gratefulness. It helped to polish off the manners that had tarnished. It helped to build confidence and demonstrate a slight element of grace or graciousness. My heart is full remembering and sharing this very valuable lesson.

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn posted an article titled The Highest ROI Management Tool in Business on August 19, 2013. It was well written and worth the read. He gave 5 points important to the experience of gratitude.
5. Learn how to take a compliment. This prompted me to share my story.

4 thoughts on “Polishing Gratitude

  1. Katie


    Marvelously written!!! Your words stirred my soul! I couldn’t read it fast enough! This is something I need to read and reread to really let it sink!!! Love reading your blog!

    1. Michele Wood Post author

      Thank you for your generous response. My heart has felt a bit fuller by sharing this lesson.

  2. Gretchen

    Thanks for sharing this. So many of us grew up as you described and, if we were lucky, someone took the time to show us a different way. Have you had a chance to pass the lesson on? Reading this just made me think of that and now I’m going to be more aware of it. You’re a peach!

    1. Michele Wood Post author

      I hope readers will help to share this. I’ve passed this on several times. I hope it was with some the grace in which it was shared with me.


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