Compliments and the Rule of Three

  • Sumo

Know the Theory of Threes? Or the Rule of Three? That things tend to happen in threes, whatever they may be. Birth. Death. Weddings, though I will argue weddings happen in sixes, not threes.

Compliments, it turns out, also follow the Rule of Three. It didn’t quite click as I’m still learning how to handle them. The first was in the elevator at the end of the day on a Monday. I had stayed late, having the Memoir in a Year class at StoryStudio and wanting to limit the number of times I went out in the cold. The Division Director happened to be leaving at the same time, along with someone from another Division. They were talking as the elevator doors opened, and I quietly followed behind. The Director turned to me in greeting, which I returned, and then she introduced me to the other person in the elevator with two sentences of praise of the work I’ve done. The elevator seemed to pause, like I needed a moment to let that sink in.

This praising/complimenting thing has happened with enough consistency now that my brain has developed an auto-response of smiling and saying “thank you.” The decision tree has enough branches that when the other party comments on the praise, the result is the same: smiling and saying “thank you.” It’s polite, doesn’t require extraneous words and demonstrates acknowledgement and appreciation of the kind words. There is the returning of a smile and change in discussion or the parting of ways. Unless I’m held captive at a dinner table, or the third party is curious and asks questions on process. I answer these easily, without thinking, I’ve noticed, and have gradually learned to employ the smile and “thank you” response when they respond in amazement at the process behind the work.

I don’t find it amazing. Like writing well and editing better, it is simply something I do. I just happen to do it well, too, but know there are others who also do it well, if not better. I still bristle when people mention my social media prowess as there are others who do it better.

The second instance came in the more familiar form of email.

Though Outlook has made me despise email to a point that not even using Gmail makes me hate it less, there is an inherent distance with email. I can read at my leisure, and choose when, or if, to respond.

Thursday morning, three days after the elevator compliment, starts with an email from my boss to the Division Director with my name as the subject line. Residual code still resides in my brain, resulting in the first reaction being one of panic. The “accidental” firing by email remains a trigger, though now I recognize the auto-response, pause, sift through what has occurred and notice that there is no data to suggest I’ve done something wrong.

In a nutshell, the email pointed out the “robust” content pipeline I’ve built (though I will claim it is still under development), the quality of the content, and that I’ve almost doubled blog traffic (to which I silently curse that it falls short of a true double). I concede on content quality for two reasons: more people have commented on its quality than not, and, for once, my exacting standards are useful instead of a burden.

There was this little nugget though, that got me thinking:

She does all of this very quietly and without handholding, which is a big deal and says a lot.

Very quietly and without handholding.

I draw a blank on a more apt, succinct description of myself.

Which brings me to the third thing: Law Technology Today being nominated to the ABA Journal’s Blawg100 list under the Legal Tech category. An incredible honor. The proliferation of legal blogs is past the line of ridiculous, so to be included on the list is a feat. Granted, this is not the first time a blog I run has made the list, but it is the first time there has been an outpouring of congratulations, internally and externally. Congratulations = compliments. My brain is not yet wired to handle such an onslaught of accolades, but it is learning.

Making the list is one thing. Winning the popularity contest is another. There is ample evidence that I’m not a winner when it comes to popularity contests. The phrase “popularity contest” causes my brain to retreat, and run through its litany of dismissals (see paragraph that starts with “I don’t find it amazing”).

There is a process to combat this, I simply have to find it.

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