Last week I was running a Mastermind Accountability Workshop. There were six hand-picked women in the group. This was our last session, and the women had spent six days together. Therefore, they had come to know, trust, admire and like each other.

One of the women complimented the other on her outfit. The recipient of the compliment immediately said, "Oh this. I have had it for years."

I was taken aback by this because of the closeness of the women in the group. I didn't expect this in this environment.

It strikes me how women react when someone says something nice about them. For the most part, they respond with something that diminishes the compliment. It's clear that they feel very uncomfortable -- almost distrust -- with what the other person is saying. Some actually become sarcastic and disagree with the comment. Some totally disregard the comment and say, "It's no big deal," or, worst, "I was just lucky."

I believe part of this phenomenon is that throughout women's lives, we are given mixed signals from society. We are told to be confident but be sure not to appear aggressive or love yourself but don't appear conceited, or don't brag. It turns people off. Women clearly find it confusing indeed. What we need to do is turn our discomfort around and look at it from the other person's point of view. Most compliments are authentic, and the other person wants to point out something fabulous about you.

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We need to recognize the effect of not graciously accepting a compliment has on the other person. It actually diminishes the other person and makes them feel badly. It makes them feel that their opinion does not matter to you, or you don't trust their judgment or don't appreciate what they have to say.

So, when you are given a compliment and you are uncomfortable, simply respond with a smile and a thank you. Or if you really want to get out of your comfort zone (something I advise women to do all the time), state that you had worked hard on it, or that you are proud of what you have achieved. Both of you will feel great after this exchange and you can dwell on the compliment for a while.

Kathy McShane is managing director of Ladies Who Launch, Connecticut. She can be reached at kmcshane@ladieswholaunch.com or ladieswholaunch.com/southwestct.