By Keanani Afu
In high school, I had trouble accepting compliments. My methodology was proving to be flawed; denial garners an increase of intensity in compliments. Pressure swells up and the only remedy for relief is to say “thank you.” Gradually, my natural response disappeared and followed cultural expectations. Whether it was in arts or academics, or in Chinese class, my vocabulary when I received a compliment dwindled to four words: “Thank you, thank you.”
At my high school, our Chinese teacher made and sold violins, and my class loved to give compliments to our teacher:
Chinese idioms tend to be four characters; beautifully concise and packed with meaning. Those four characters were like that for me. It was in that exchange, I learned an entirely new dynamic in giving and receiving compliments. A cultural norm that I related to, and a cultural practice I’d been carrying out without knowing it. Through four characters I could practice what I couldn’t before: the ability to deny and accept a compliment at the same time, and to have it understood by the other person.
Now when someone compliments me I can say two things:
“Thank you, thank you.”
It seems I accept compliments better in Chinese.