Your Top Two Compliments Mean Something More

By Liz Bapasola, Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and Founder and CEO of Liz Bapasola & Associates, LLC

Whenever I'm with friends and colleagues I naturally love looking for deeper meaning in our conversations and turning them into insights I can later use to assist to my coaching clients. For instance, last month I was at a higher education and law conference in Florida with five colleagues from my college. This five-night conference allowed us plenty of bonding time in the evenings, inviting fun deeper get-to-know-you conversations over dinner.

One colleague, who is also an informal coachee of mine, mentioned earlier in week that the two best compliments that mean the very most to her are "You're funny," and "You're skinny." We all laughed, because my colleague is really, really funny and she always talks about losing those stubborn last 10 pounds despite losing over 50 pounds a few years back.

I then suggested to the rest of the colleagues around the table that we share the top two compliments that we would like to receive. Mine were "smart" and "genuine." Another's were "smart" and "dainty." 

"Dainty?" I asked my colleague, who is slim and tall and strong-willed as a woman. I was puzzled by that second compliment, but also interested in the fact that everyone's second adjective for a compliment, including mine, was a little bit more interesting than the first. 

After further reflections on this conversation and later conversations with friends, family, and colleagues, I've surmised that the answer to this question "What are your top two compliments that describe you" uncover something deeper about you based on your responses.

As your coach, I want you to answer this question for yourself before reading any further. Ask yourself: "I want people to think I am __________ and __________. The answers must be adjectives that describe you.

OK, got your answers? Great! Now reflect on this.

Does the first adjective describe something about you that you know is really, really, really true, and you expect/anticipate other people see in yourself?

Does the second adjective describe something about you that you hope other people see in you and the opposite of that adjective is actually something that you secretly dislike in yourself or were made fun of when you were younger?

For instance, my colleague/coachee who wants to be seen as "funny and skinny," really IS funny and really is a lot skinnier than she was 5 years ago. She is super proud for how funny and fun-loving she is, and in the same token shared with me that while growing up she was made fun of for being overweight and always wishes she were skinnier.

For me, my top two compliments are "smart and genuine." I did well in school and am secretly happy when that is recognized. That said, when I was in high school and college occasionally I was accused of being "fake" because I always looked extra "pulled together" and had a sunny disposition on the outside even if I was sad on the inside. I have always disliked the label "fake," and therefore someone recognizing me as "genuine," something that I strive to be every day, is what I really want.

So think back again about the top two compliments you desire. Is the first natural response something that you believe is accurate and true, while the other is something that you aspire to be?

Maybe you just learned something new about yourself.