Lutfi Torla.com

How do you learn to accept compliments? By using the “crossed-arms” effect

“Your work is really good!”

“No, not really. It’s not that good. It’s just something I threw together quickly.”

Why would you do that? Why would you reject a compliment? Why would you make that person feel stupid for liking something and going out of his way to tell you about it?

There are a large number of people that find it hard to accept a compliment. And it’s not really their fault. It’s just that they haven’t been taught how to accept it gracefully.

Accepting compliments isn’t for you, it’s for them

When you accept a compliment, it makes you feel good, yes. But it also makes the other person happy.

It’s a weird thing, but often the people who find it hardest to give compliments, are the same people who find it hard to accept them from others.

So the natural question to ask is:

If you start giving compliments, does it also become easier to accept them?

So let’s look at giving…

Have you ever tried teaching anything? Or explaining something to a friend?

You probably found that after teaching the topic, you understood it even better than before. In fact, the ones who actually teach a subject are usually the ones who understand it the most.

And what about people who network?

Going out of your way to help someone else succeed just to build a relationship with them. All that time spent on others should logically make you less successful, but it turns out that these are the people who succeed.

It’s weird isn’t it? All these people are giving, giving, giving, but they seem to have more than us. And they seem to understand better than us.

Giving doesn’t reduce what you have. Instead, it allows you to get more.

But you need to have something to start giving… right?

You would think so wouldn’t you?

But you’ll be happy to find out that you’re wrong. In fact, the opposite is true. The moment when you have the least is the moment you should start learning to give. It will actually help you get more.

After you start giving, it will almost seem that opportunities start popping up from nowhere. Opportunities for you to get more and more.

So, what’s actually happening?

By now you’re probably thinking that I’m talking about karma, “The Force” or some other magical energy in the universe that rewards you for giving to others.

No. Not really.

It all has to do with an experiment that a few guys conducted back in 1988.

The “crossed-arms” experiment

A few psychology-type people wanted to see the link between actions and thoughts. They logically assumed that thoughts are what control actions, because your brain controls your muscles. Makes sense, right?

What happened next blew their mind.

Normally, when someone disagrees with  a speaker, they cross their arms and legs (called a closed posture). This is quite common. So they arranged a room where a speaker would explain his opinion and a bunch of people would watch him.

Half the crowd were told to watch him while crossing their arms in front of them in a closed posture. Let’s call this crowd A.

The other half was a control crowd that didn’t cross their arms and listened with an open posture. Let’s call this crowd B. 

They watched and listened to his lecture.

After the talk, the crowd was asked whether they agreed. Overwhelmingly, crowd A with the closed posture didn’t agree with the speaker while crowd B had a normal balance of people agreeing and disagreeing.

They tried mixing the people around and re-did the experiment. Again, the new crowd A with the closed posture disagreed!

Crowd A had also learned and remembered 38% less than crowd B!

What was going on?!

They repeated the experiment in 1989 with 1500 people and the results were consistent. Somehow, crossing their arms was making people have negative thoughts about the speaker, and also paying less attention to him because of that.

Actions were controlling thoughts!

In psychology, there is no cause and effect

There is no cause and effect, there’s only correlation.

When you do something, it reminds you of a mental state (mindstate) that you were in. Perhaps eating ice-cream reminds you of a time that you were happy, and perhaps writing reminds you of how much you hated homework in school.

Giving doesn’t reduce what you have. Instead, it allows you to get more.

Your subconscious is also affected when you do something and your mindstate changes.

So your thoughts affect your actions, but doing those actions also changes your thoughts.

What’s happening isn’t a one-way “cause and effect” any more. It’s two-way. It’s a relation between the two things. It’s correlation.

You can only give from a mindstate of generosity

So it turns out that whenever you give something away (whether it’s compliments, knowledge or time), you have to first subconsciously change your mindset to a mindstate where you actually have enough to give away. A mindstate of having plenty.

And once you have a mindstate where you can actually believe that you can handle having more, it means you allow yourself to accept more.

P.S. Bonus points. Think about how charity fits into all this.

We usually have an automatic internal belief of how much we can handle. We only have “this much” knowledge, we only have “these many” friends, we only have “this much” money.

And we’re terrified to death that we won’t have enough. And so we keep looking inwards, at our own stuff, trying to maintain it so that it won’t ever go away. And that actually starts to have the opposite effect.

Giving it away forces us to believe that we now have space to accept more.

Giving it away makes us start to get hungry to fill up that space. And that’s when we pay attention to the outside, and the millions of opportunities that pass us by every day.

So it’s not so much that these opportunities weren’t there before. It’s just that we were too focused on keeping what we have tightly bound to us, that we didn’t have the mindstate to accept what Allah is giving us.

Giving a compliment isn’t about the words…

It’s not. Because words are easy to say. And for some reason compliments are hard. What you’re actually doing is giving self-esteem. That’s hard.

It’s hard to think of giving self-esteem to others when you feel that yours is low.

I know, I’ve been there.

But when you can give sincere compliments to someone else, that’s when you start understanding that others could be just like you. They might actually be giving sincere compliments because they really, truly, deeply mean it.

The compliments need to really be sincere though. If they’re unsincere, it’ll just make you believe that life is fake. Remember, actions change your thoughts.

And you force your mindstate to believe for a moment that you’re worthy of giving that compliment to someone else, which also means that you’re worthy of accepting a compliment.

So what SHOULD you say when people compliment you?

So the next time someone says “Your work is really good!”, don’t reject it.

Acknowledge it, and acknowledge what he is complimenting, which is the effort and time and hard work you put into it.

Because even if it really isn’t good enough yet, you still put effort into it.

So smile and say…

“Thank you, I worked hard on it.”

 

8 thoughts on “How do you learn to accept compliments? By using the “crossed-arms” effect

  1. Azwar Zaim

    I was halfway thru the article before I looked at the URL and noticed that it’s your website. I’d thought it was by some pro blogger for the US. Referring to Allah was what gave it away. Awesome writing, Lutfi! You’re the first Malaysian I’ve read with this level of competence. *high 5s all around!*

    1. Lutfi Torla Post author

      Thanks man! That means a lot.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article enough to read it the whole way through!

  2. Wan Matiin

    Now don’t cross your arms and disagree with me. This piece really packs a punch, and is definitely timely with respect to my stage in life! I’m glad you’re in my generation (and my friend) so we can always bounce meaningful ideas over the years. Sniff I..I appear to have something in my eye *runs*.

    1. Lutfi Torla Post author

      Hahaha!
      Thanks Matiin! I’m always glad we’re friends. You always have such deep ideas when we sit down and chat.

  3. themuselim

    You know! I’ve always had this problem of accepting compliments – I feel very awkward… I even acknowledge it, but I never reflected on it – its good you’ve worked it all out for me. I like the concept of moving from an inward mindstate to an outward one. I do feel very inward and defensive in general. I also caught the underlying insult there: anyone who admits to this problem, also admits to not being generous with compliments! Luckily, I happen to be one of those rare exceptions huh? But really Lutfi, your other blogs are good, but this one’s better!

    1. Lutfi Torla Post author

      You’re welcome Muselim! Hahaha.

      Thank you. I like how this one turned out too. I’ve been trying out a slightly new writing style.

Leave a Reply