Bonnie Bing

You can be humble and still gracefully accept a compliment


A compliment is simply a statement that says something positive about a person. But for many of us it’s an area of communication that could use some work.

Handing out more compliments is a good idea, but not so many that they seem ingenuous. But where I think we need even more work is accepting a compliment. At least, according to my husband, I need to improve. “All right, I’m not going to say anything nice to you anymore,” he’ll say, when he compliments me and I disagree with him. Sometimes he’s commenting on what I’m wearing or a new hairstyle, and instead of just saying thank you, I launch into how the outfit doesn’t fit right or my hair is out of control. I’ve finally learned (I hope) that it is easier to just say, “Thank you. Nice of you to notice.”

Some who study human behavior say that people with low self-esteem can’t take a compliment because they feel they don’t deserve it. But I think some people are simply embarrassed when complimented because they grew up learning the importance of being humble. I’ve been told more than once that people in the Midwest are too humble. An editor from somewhere back East said to me: “What is it about Kansans? You can’t take a compliment, and you don’t think you deserve anything.”

I told him we didn’t grow up crowded, pushing and shoving. We open doors for each other. We look each other in the eye. We smile at complete strangers. We learned it’s nice to give compliments, but not nice to brag. “Well, no wonder,” he said.

Even though we are acquainted with those folks who love to tell us how much money they make, or how much they paid for this or that, or what award they just received, generally we are a humble lot. And that’s not a bad thing. But next time someone compliments you on anything, whether it’s your appearance, your cooking, your performance or whatever, simply say, “Thank you.”

Says who?

We might not be comfortable when complimented, but we don’t like it one bit when someone makes a statement about us that isn’t warranted. Several people called and e-mailed when we were once again listed as either the worst dressed or one of the worst dressed states in our country.

Oh, blah blah blah. Says who? First of all, this decision was reached by checking out the number of major department stores we have. Apparently this is the scientific way they determine how people dress. Please let me meet these people who decide to publish statements like this. Let me see their wardrobes. They might want to leave their office, which is probably located in their basement, and come to Wichita. Let me show them the amazing specialty shops we have, and our department stores. I’ve traveled enough to know that the entire country has gone the way of extreme casualness. But being casual and comfortable doesn’t mean Kansans are worst dressed. The guy I sat to on the plane not long ago had on pajama bottoms and a bad T-shirt. He wasn’t from Kansas. He was from Baltimore. Now, if I were the guy in the basement office, I’d say, “Everyone in Maryland dresses like they just rolled out of bed.” It’s those generalities we need to disregard. Kansas seems to be an easy target, so let them talk. I say to these Mr. Blackwell wannabes, want to come see us so we can prove to you we have great stores and many, many very well-dressed people? Bring it.