Dancing the Do-si-do
Have you ever noticed that in general, we British are pretty bad at either taking a compliment or at fending off sniping remarks by negative people? We do what the Winning Edge calls the ‘Justification Dance.’ It’s a funny concept really when you think about it, this notion that for some reason it’s necessary for us to justify our success or good points as well as to feel the need to justify our actions and choices, should someone disagree with them, judge them, or maybe have nothing better to do than make a throwaway negative comment.
What’s your favourite move?
There are two types of justification dance: firstly, to avoid the “embarrassment” of success and the feeling your good fortune somehow disadvantages others, we often counter generous remarks from positive people who are recognising and genuinely praising our achievements, by answering in a self-deprecating manner. Whilst this is very humble and noble, your self-esteem deserves for you to accept praise and you should be positive to ensure a strong sense of self-worth. There is no reason not to accept people’s kind and positive comments but here are a few examples of how we don’t accept them graciously:
“Your new kitchen is gorgeous!” “Well, the old kitchen was 15 years old and getting a bit tired -looking, so we made a few sacrifices and saved hard to get it,” or “So, you’re off to the Seychelles next year. That’s fantastic!” “It’s really only because it’s a big anniversary year. It’s a bit of an extravagance but we thought we’d treat ourselves.”
The best way to avoid the justification dance in these examples is to reply with an enthusiastic, “Thank you, I’m / we’re thrilled to bits!” This response underpins your self-esteem and properly rewards the other person for their generous recognition.
Beware of the sniper
The second reason for the verbal fancy footwork of the justification dance, is to fend-off the sniping remarks of negative people who enjoy watching you squirm as you justify yourself. However, the more you do the justification dance, the more these mean-spirited people will bait you. For example:
“A new car already?! Surely you hadn’t had the last one long. Was the ashtray full?!” “Your new car must be very heavy on petrol!” “Well, yes but it was a good deal. I can get over 35 mpg and it’s very comfortable on a journey,” or “The depreciation will hit you.” “Yes, but when you spread it over three years and take the lower insurance into account, it’s not too bad.”
This sort of justification dance is pointless because you’re scrabbling around for explanations and the excitement of the chase will only motivate the other person to search for more chinks in your self-esteem armour. I find the best strategy against snipers is the dignity of enthusiastic, smiling agreement and quite frankly, having a bit of fun…: “A new car already?! It must be very heavy on petrol!” “Yes, extravagant isn’t it?! The fuel consumption is ridiculous!” or “The depreciation will hit you…” “Yes. Probably!” Oh, how I smile to myself as they flounder in surprise at your response.
“It’s more fun to arrive at a conclusion than to justify it.” Malcolm Forbes
Admittedly, this approach can be challenging to adopt to begin with. As someone who isn’t confrontational and who wouldn’t make such sniping remarks, I used to be taken by surprise when someone would say such negative and detrimental things however, at some point, self-preservation needs to kick in in order that you no longer batter your self-esteem. I now enjoy the exchange knowing that I am in no way justifying my choices – there’s no need to explain myself.
When we choose to take to the floor with our justification dance, we are justifying only to ourselves. If we are happy with the choices and decisions we make in life and that they align with our consciously chosen values, we need the permission of no-one else – especially that of the sniper!
So, why do we feel it necessary to don our dancing shoes?
Is it because we don’t feel worthy of our good fortune or successes? The British, as previously mentioned, are not particularly great at celebrating their successes – very often they hide their light under a bushel and can be very self-deprecating. However, this does nothing to build our self-image because the subconscious brain cannot distinguish between self-deprecation, irony nor sarcasm. When you say things such as: ‘Oh, I’m really not that talented, it was a fluke to be honest and I probably couldn’t produce work of that standard again…’ – that’s downloaded and becomes part of your self-talk cycle and does nothing to build your self-esteem.
I remember my Dad telling me a story years ago of when he was in a hotel checking-in and the Receptionist asked whether he had had a good day. In a terribly English way, he replied: “Yes, fine thank you.” Then another guest approached the desk to also check-in. He too was asked: “Good afternoon Sir. How has your day been?” His reply: “Awesome! Thanks for asking!” He was American. Arrogant? No, just honest. And pumped. And why not?!
Celebrate good times, c’mon!
Celebrating our successes, for some reason, is very often seen as conceited, egotistical and vulgar. But why? If we’re not boastful, or arrogant, or trying to top trump anyone else’s victories, why shouldn’t we be celebrating and telling others of our triumphs? Very often, we’ve worked darn hard for them, so why not shout them from the roof tops?!
A family discussion the other day centred around self-image. My daughters asked me if I thought I was pretty, and I answered: “Pretty awesome!” and they fell about laughing – loving my answer! If we feel good, if we’ve had an excellent day and feel chuffed to bits with our achievements, then share the love – it can be infectious. Our accomplishments might encourage someone else to herald their triumphs, or maybe give someone else a nudge to want to achieve something they’ll feel proud of.
I work hard on my self-belief and it’s a work in progress, but it means I do not justify my achievements and I celebrate my accomplishments with others. Just as I very much ‘big up’ theirs. Share the love I say.
There’s no justification dance in my world, only gratitude and celebration.