By Catherine Welborn
Even people who normally get along well with others find some personalities difficult to take. In this occasional series we offer advice for dealing with those difficult people and perhaps fixing your own flaws. Last week I discussed The Braggart and today I’ll cover the exact opposite: the Self-Deprecator.
Self-deprecators constantly put themselves down. Some are “fishing” for compliments—purposefully criticizing themselves in hopes of receiving a compliment. Others honestly lack confidence in their abilities and believe what they’re saying. Either way, it is frustrating for co-workers to feel continuously pressured to reassure them.
Working with a self-deprecator:
- Focus on the real issue—confidence. If the person says “I’ll never be any good at giving presentations” right after delivering a completely acceptable one, say “You know, Jane, I think you did fine, but if it would boost your confidence, there are some great training programs we can enroll you in.”
- Choose your words carefully. When you’re tempted to say “Shut up already! I’m sick of your self-pity!” say something gentler like “Josh, you’ve got so much going for you! I don’t want to hear another self-deprecating thing out of your mouth!” You’ll get your point across.
- Jump on every praise opportunity. As soon as the person does something commendable, applaud it. You’ll satisfy the fisher and boost the confidence of the insecure person.
If you’re a bit of a self-deprecator:
- Learn to take a compliment. Stop yourself from deflecting flattery. When a co-worker says “Great job today!” don’t respond “Anyone could have done it, and someone else could have done it better.” Instead say “Thanks! I appreciate that!” and enjoy the feeling.
- Be honest about what you want. When you catch yourself about to say something self-deprecating, think about what you are really seeking. Replace “I’m lousy at these cold calls” with “Teresa, I’ve noticed you’re really good at cold calling. Would you mind giving me some pointers?”
- Make a list of your strengths and successes. In a journal, write all the things you’re proud of—whether they’re work-related or not. When you’re feeling the need to put yourself down, read the list to remind yourself of how great you really are.
How do you deal with the self-deprecators?