This was me when Sue, the wonderful organizer of Sacramento Stories on Stage, first asked me to send her my work for consideration:
“Oh, no. Are you sure you really want it? I’m not that good.”
My friend Valerie grabbed my arm. “When someone asks to see your work, always just say thank you.”
Thanks, friend. I needed that.
My first reaction to a compliment, a gift, a favor, or an offer, is some kind of waffle-mouthed “Oh no, surely you don’t mean it, I don’t want to be a bother, I couldn’t possibly accept.”
Reader, it’s bullshit. I never mean what I’m saying. Presents are awesome. I’m flattered by compliments. I love offers and favors. At what point did I learn that I shouldn’t accept good things? I don’t know the answer to that and besides this isn’t therapy, it’s advice.
I did send Sue my story, and she ran it for July’s Stories on Stage event. It was tremendous to see The Flat Earth performed onstage, and that exposure has brought wonderful things for my career. Who was I kidding with that other stuff? Not Valerie, and lucky for me she was standing there to save me from myself. I’ve contacted her since then when I’ve felt paralyzed by a great offer.
Just say thank you is always Valerie’s advice to me. It’s obvious advice, but I need the reminder, believe me.
Practice saying yes, thank you with no equivocation. Equivocation is a lie that prompts the giver to have to then insist, or to heap on more compliments, or to engage in verbal gymnastics so that I can save face during this vulnerable moment. How dumb. How rude. How self-defeating. How boring.
My advice to me, not that I thought of it on my own: Just thank you.
Write about the response you usually give to compliments, gifts and offers of support. If your tendency is to equivocate rather than just accept right away, why do you think you do that? How do you feel when other people do that to you? What can help you remember to just say thank you when someone offers you kindness?
If it is hard for you to believe that people are in earnest when they offer kindness, why is this? Why do you assume that people are acting contrary to their true desires? Do you ever offer gifts that you hope people do not accept? If so, why? What can you do instead?
Write a mock thank-you note, or series of thank-you notes for dream gifts that you have always wanted. For example, a thank-you note to a donor who has granted you a million dollars to work on your projects for a year, a note to thank your new boss for your dream job, a note to thank the Academy for the Oscar nomination. A note to thank your dream sweetheart for the dozen roses. (Get the picture?)