When a loved one doesn’t take a compliment, it very hard to know what to say.
Those who suffer from low self-esteem have rigidly strong beliefs about themselves. For example, you know that your partner deserved that promotion they worked so hard to achieve. However, your loved one’s thoughts will have them instantly dismiss their part in it and will tell themselves they just got lucky.
No matter how you offer praise, no matter how true it is, there will be a tendency not to believe it and bat it away. There are important reasons why they do this. Any ideas offered that question a rigid belief system may be met with very internal strong resistance.
Three ways to communicate with someone with low self-esteem
There were specific techniques counsellors use when speaking with someone who is struggling with low self-esteem. You may find these useful when trying to communicate praise with your loved one.
Agree, and then disagree
Find something in their belief that you can agree with, and put a more positive spin on the rest. For example,
Your loved one: why do I get it wrong most of the time?
You: Well, nobody can be perfect (agreement). I happen to know you accomplished a lot in your life, more than many others (disagreement).
The idea here is to be subtle with any positivity offered, so there is no outright contradiction of their belief. You don’t want to trigger your loved one to turn off; you want to coax them into considering what you are saying might be right.
Using metaphors is a great way to compliments to your loved one without directly challenging their belief systems.
You loved one: At this point, my contribution feels pointless.
You: It is frustrating not to be able to measure your impact, this can take time. Rome was not built in a day.
Reframe negative into positive
This can be tricky, but the idea is to reframe gently.
Your loved ones: Everyone says I’m stubborn.
You: That’s interesting because I often experience and admire your determination.
When wanting to compliment a loved one with low self-esteem, try using one or more of the suggestion above.
If you or a loved one is suffering from low self-esteem and is interested in exploring support, please contact me. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may help. I offer a free 20-minute initial consultation to explore this further.