Ever find yourself thankful for an exceptional employee (or boss), yet failing to communicate your appreciation to them directly? Turns out, you’re not the only one—plenty of people struggle to give compliments. But why?

Sitting at a juice bar—Nectar—in Lewes, Delaware, I listened to my barista go on and on about how great her boss is—“She’s young, but she has her stuff together. She’s excellent at running this place.”

“What makes her so good?” I asked.

“She has a good way of dealing with difficult people, and she has even come to me to apologize when she was concerned that something she said might have offended me. She’s never offended me, but it feels good to know that she cares.”

“Have you ever told her this?” I asked.

“No,” she said, and quickly refocused on preparing the next juice in the queue.

“Why don’t you say those exact words directly to her?” I asked.

My questions only seemed to make her uncomfortable, so I stopped asking and started pondering—Why is it so difficult to give a compliment?

There are two reasons people avoid giving compliments:

  1. To avoid the discomfort of rejection.
  2. They have a faulty perception of good leadership.

When someone gives you a compliment, and you brush them off with, “Nah, not me,” as you squirm off and avoid eye contact, you’re rejecting their compliment, which can feel like you’re rejecting them. Rather then risk the possibility of rejection, they avoid giving it altogether.

When you say “Thank you,” even if it’s uncomfortable, you are accepting their interpretation of you (or your actions). In essence, you’re accepting them.

Learn to say “Thank you,” and watch as compliments increasingly come your way. Take the risk of sharing kind words, and you cannot help but create an open faucet of kindness, connection and growth, personally and professionally.

Next week we’ll get into the second element—Why a faulty perception of good leadership results in the avoidance of sharing kind words.

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister