Stop Being So Humble!

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I had the honor of presenting on the power of acknowledgement at PMI Global Congress 2009--North America in Orlando, Florida, USA last week. Whether it was a long presentation or a booth demo, people told me they were inspired into action.

I got into a deep conversation on acknowledgement with Efrain Pacheco, a senior project manager at the U.S. Department of Justice and assistant vice president of the Chapter-to-Chapter Outreach Program for the PMI Washington, D.C. chapter.

Efrain shared something poignant. He told me he's humble by nature and this is the way he was brought up in Ecuador. And as a result, he has difficulty accepting acknowledgements.

At the Executive Office for Immigration Review where he worked as project manager for the information systems and IT support, for example, Efrain was given an award for turning around project.

It was given to him in from of his whole office. So he smiled, but he told me he couldn't say anything or even let himself feel anything because he felt so strongly that his entire team should have received the award.

Efrain's story brings up two important issues: the need to accept acknowledgments with grace and appreciation, and the positive value of wanting to share the glory with one's team members. I am going to focus on the first now and address the other in a future post.

Here's the deal, folks. When we don't accept an acknowledgment graciously, it's as if that person gave you a gift, and you said, "No thanks. I don't want or need that. I don't even like it."

That's what an acknowledger is left with when the acknowledgee says, "Oh, it was nothing" or "It was no big deal." Or as in Efrain's case, when he just smiled but didn't express his appreciation and allow himself to feel the joy that comes naturally with being acknowledged. He just couldn't let it in. Instead, he kept a wall around himself.

When I told him he was rejecting a gift, he was shocked. He had never thought of it that way. He is now committed to working on accepting the precious gifts of acknowledgment.

Remember, someone who acknowledges another in a heartfelt and authentic way is making himself or herself vulnerable. They are trusting that the person will fully receive their gift.

Don't disappoint them.

Posted by Judy Umlas on: October 22, 2009 11:32 AM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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Thank you for this posting this blog. I've never been comfortable receiving compliments for many of the reasons described above. I never thought it could be seen as a form of rejection by the person offering the compliment.

Can you offer examples of how to express gratitude when in these situations? Is a simple thank you enough?

Heidi Baker
That's a great way to put the humble situation into perspective. I can empathize with Efrain in that while we are appreciative, we don't want others to feel obligated to acknowledge us, even though their acknowledgment is truly heartfelt and sincere. Looking at the situation from your perspective is a wonderful way for us to acknowledge the acknowledgment! As always, thank you Judy for your insight.
Efrain, if you're reading this, congratulations and keep up the great work!

Great timing—I read the post and went into a project status meeting and found myself receiving a very unexpected compliment. I simply said "Thanks and I will pass along to the team". I appreciate the opportunity to think in these areas.

Judith Umlas
Dear Terry, A round of virtual applause to you for being gracious and accepting the compliment/acknowledgment you were given. So many people respond with "Oh, it was nothing" and then the giver is stuck with the acknowledgment -- a painful position to be in. You helped in your simple way, and by reporting on it, to help others change their behavior. So thanks! Best regards, Judith W. Umlas

Judy Umlas
Dear Heidi, How generous of you to acknowledge Efrain. Let's see if he was able to accept it. Efrain? Your turn! Thanks as always, Heidi, for being such an "out there" proponent of the power of acknowledgment. Best regards, Judy Umlas

Judy Umlas
I hope it is not too late to respond to your very poignant and simple statement about not being comfortable receiving compliments (or acknowledgments -- which go deeper than compliments -- I presume). A thank you is "good enough." it is certainly better than saying, "Oh, it was nothing" or brushing it off in some other way. But it is best if you can let the other person know how much the acknowledgment really meant to you. For example, you could say: "What you said really means a lot to me. I know it isn't always easy to let someone know their value, and by doing this, you really made my day, my week or maybe even my year!" It is whatever feels real to you. Don't exaggerate or make up something that isn't true, just to make that person feel good -- it won't go over well if it isn't authentic. Then be as warm about it as you can be, without overdoing it for yourself. YOU will feel great, even if a little embarrassed, letting the person know the difference he or she made with you. And that person will be walking on air, knowing they made a difference. I hope this helps!

Pablo Holowaty
Thansk so much for this blog and the Webinars, they are very useful!!

Syed Kazmi
Thanks Judy for the positive energy you radiate. It is very contagious. It has made a difference in my life and I thank you for you. Thanks

Judy Umlas
Dear Syed, I just saw your lovely "acknowledgment," and want to thank you so much for the beautiful, simple yet elegant way you expressed it. I'm glad that these posts make a difference in your life. That is what it is all about for me. Warm regards, Judy Umlas

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