11 What to Say When Your Work Is Praised

I grew up believing the proper way to respond to a compliment was with modesty. If somebody said, “Great outfit,” my response was something like, “Oh, it was a bargain and I’ve had it for years.”

As a young lawyer, if I worked long hours on a tough memo and a partner said, “You did a nice job,” I was inclined to answer in the same self-deprecating way. I’d belittle my efforts by saying something like, “No big deal” or “It was a team effort.”

My typical response was wrong in so many ways. For one thing, it lowered the partner’s assessment of the quality of my work. Instead of reading my mind and understanding that I’d struggled hard to produce a first-class draft, he might take me at my word and regard ...

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