What’s Your Cultural Perspective on Taking Compliments?


How do you react when someone compliments you?

How do you react when someone compliments you?

The Comedy Central program, Inside Amy Schumer, did a skit on women (not) taking compliments that went viral.  It’s an extended version of this response to a compliment on your clothes: “What? This old rag!?”

This is about culture in various ways:

1- The women in the video are engaging in culturally-appropriate behavior for the specific sub-culture that they share (and the results are exaggeratedly dramatic when someone violates those culturally norms).

If it’s a culture of self-deprication or self-insult and you belong to that culture, then maybe you can’t be the jerk who says “Thank you! I love my jacket, too.”

From such a simple example, we get to important questions such as:

  • How do we adapt to all the different cultures we belong to?
  • How do we adapt to new cultures we encounter?
  • How do we work to change the cultures we belong to when they are flawed?

These are huge questions!  But for the purposes of job search documents and interview prep, the specific examples can be as small as a single garment (and that can say a lot, as the Amy Schumer skit shows).

2-Be self-aware, work to change bad habits, and actively practice changing habits. In this case, when someone gives you a compliment, practice saying “Thank you!” 

But for the job search, what you need to practice is probably body language:

avoid standing with your arms crossed,

maintain good posture and remain engaged,

smile more often than you might normally while making it look natural (and not stiff, fake, or creepy).

3- We are all living examples of “culture.” Everything we all do all day long everyday is tied to culture. For the purposes of job search documents such as personal statements or medical school / residency essays and interview preparation, it’s a matter of being able to choose a single example of culture and elaborate on it in such a way that shows the depth of your experience, your ability to learn from experience and adapt because of it, and that you can apply your cultural analysis skills to a specific workplace.

I have blogged about crafting answers here, here, here, and here.

Here’s  a great article on telling stories in a professional context: 5 Keys to Great Storytelling: Lessons from Barbara Corcoran 

Telling your own story with details is essential to illustrate that you possess the characteristics an employer or graduate/professional school program seeks. It can be a tiny, little story the details of which take up less than 2 sentences (because space, word limits, character limits are almost always an issue).  

Barbara Corcoran says to share a beginning, middle, and end. For the purposes of applications, this should be:

  • beginning: an experience you had
  • middle: what you learned from that experience
  • end: the big picture generalization that you can now apply to your specific professional context (and make it as specific to the organization you are applying to as possible–know what they are looking for and show that you have that!)

Darcy Lear is a Chicago-based career coach specializing in training students to highlight their language studies so they standout in the job search and workplace. For one-on-one coaching or to set up a workshop, contact Darcy: darcylear@gmail.com  Graduate school / professional school application special running now through August 15th!
This entry was posted in Career Advice, document preparation, interview prep, Networking. Bookmark the permalink.

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