4 min read

Make Room For Receiving Praise

Make Room For Receiving Praise
Midjourney: Receiving praise from a large group of people. minimalist. --ar 16:9

This weekend was my Mom's 70th birthday. My brother Nathan and I were able to be with our wives at my parents' home on beautiful Cedar Creek Lake in East Texas for the festivities, and it was an absolute privilege to share with my Mom and remind her how much she is loved.

Not only with our words and gifts and the fun we had in person but also because my siblings and Dad had worked together for over a month to create a Tribute video. We gave friends, family, and people we know love our Mom the opportunity to record a video message and share their birthday greetings and a favorite memory.

When we sent out the texts and emails last month, a few video messages trickled in. Then, in the week leading up to her birthday, a flood of messages came in from people in each chapter of her life. All told, 84 videos featuring 118 People came in! When we sat Mom down to say, "A few people wanted to wish you a happy birthday," she had no idea that the video was going to be 1:40 long!

It was incredible to see the look on her face and the joy and laughter that she had as each new face popped up on the screen. Some of those who contributed were people who she hadn't seen for 30 or 40 years, but I've kept in touch with them from a distance, reminding my mom of their favorite memories and thanking her for the impact that she'd made on their lives and wishing her happy 70th birthday.

It was so amazing to be in the room to see it happen, and it got me thinking even more about what it takes to accept the praise of others or to be honored by others and do that well.

I say, "I'm thinking about it even more" because a group of friends here in New York City recently surprised me with that experience.

Some of you know that I've been hosting a dinner series that I call Gentlemen's Dinners over the past five years. It started off with a newish friend and me realizing how different our networks were and wondering what would happen if we each brought three people we knew the other person didn't know to dinner and watched how the social experiment played out.

Our first dinner was in May of 2019, and as of last week, we've hosted 48 of them.

In honor of the May anniversary of the Gentlemen's Dinner community, a group of Gentlemen who have attended one of these dinners over the past five years got together and honored me in a surprise ceremony on a friend's rooftop. They read a proclamation saying "thank you" and gave me one of the most generous gifts I've ever received. It was truly overwhelming,honored me in a surprise ceremony and I am still processing it.

The next day, I wondered, " Did I accept their gift and the way they honored me well? Was I gracious in my response?"

I was wrestling with this and shared it with a fellow Executive Coach here in New York City, Gilly Weinstein. She told me that, in her experience, many people who are prone to serving others as coaches or community leaders have various ways of accepting and receiving praise.

"Some people dislike being in the spotlight, it can hark back to something very individual, from something deep, in the climate they grew up in. Some people absorb praise like a sunrise, in a quiet and silent but grounded and present way.
Turning your face away from praise in a bashful or minimizing, or even dismissive reaction (which many people do instinctively) can be a sign of deep humility but also, often, a sign of insecurity. 
When you reach a certain age or stage in your career, you really need to drill down (ideally with the help of a coach) what praise elicits in you and why. Sometimes your inability to take on praise/be honored can unintentionally hurt the person offering it, so be careful.
The ability to quietly receive and take in praise/honors in a way that feels authentic to you--and simultaneously lets the other party feel you value it--is a leadership skill."

I also reached out to my coaching mentor, John Baird for his thoughts.

I like to coach people to accept the compliments and I will often coach them on how to respond using "I messages" with specific descriptions of what was said and how that was the intent.
For example, “I so appreciate your compliment about my presentation regarding its compelling impact on you. I worked hard on the delivery and wanted to tell stories that people could connect to. I’m glad it resonated with you.” This displays a powerful sense of confidence and gratitude.

In reliving my experience last month after seeing how my Mom was able to just smile and laugh at the kind words literally hundreds of people shared with her for her birthday, I was overjoyed. In graciously receiving that praise, my Mom was teaching me once again how much more there is to learn.

It was her birthday, but I was the one receiving the gift.

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