I’m okay with people saying nice things about me. In fact, probably like most people, I really like it. I’m not above admitting the surge of pride that comes with seeing a social media post about me from someone I’ve helped. If a client, co-worker or CEO praises me in that context, I love it. It’s a big motivator for me.

Even in more private contexts, I like this. If I get to overhear one family member or friend telling another about some positive thing I’ve done, it really refuels me.

On the other hand, I’m really, really awful with people saying those same things to me.

If my boss posts on LinkedIn “John is super awesome, look at this great thing he did,” then I’m over the moon. If she says to me “John, you’re super awesome, and this thing you did was great,” then I stare blankly, as if at an oncoming truck.

Sometimes people say really, really nice things to me. Often in a professional context, people will express to me that I did a lot for them, helped them in really significant ways, changed something important in their lives for the better. This is what I live for – the act, not the compliment. All I want in the world is to do those things, but when people compliment me for it, I shake.

I feel like no amount of gratitude I could express would be equal to the compliment they’re giving me, because it really means the world to me that they’re saying it. People don’t have to say anything at all, so when they go out of their way to do so, I’m consistently blown away.

Recently, someone I’ve been working with for some time gave me such a compliment. It’s been so fantastic to work with him and I’ve enjoyed every second, and yet still in that moment I didn’t know how to properly thank him for what he was saying. Instead, I expressed this sentiment, about how I didn’t know what to say in exactly that scenario.

And he said, “Dude, you just say ‘thank you.'” He said it isn’t about justifying their opinion or matching their emotion with my own. It’s just about giving them the space to say what they want to say, because they need to express their emotion. That was incredibly good advice.

Gratitude is important, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complex. Thank you.

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