A participant was trying to be supportive of the person presenting. However, he wanted to share an idea that seemed to hint at an error he thought the presenter might have made.
Sharing his comment, he tried to reconcile these aspects, he named what he perceived to be an error while describing how unusual it seemed to him that she would be making an error.
Of the two elements offered she chose to start reacting to the compliment. She found it hard to simply accept it and highlighted that she regularly does make errors. A bit later during her presentation, something else appeared that she now qualified as an error. Following up on the first intervention she highlighted to him and us that this was already the second error she had made.
It was a kind intervention and one that normally just passes by. We’d think that it’s hardly noteworthy. And yet, it was important enough for her to come back to it.
One could think that there are no signs of distress in the exchange, however, the way people share compliments and react to them indicates how people want to be seen. Being seen differently than one wants to be seen does create a small distress. There is some dissonance with the story they tell themselves and they seek to straighten it out.
A possible interpretation of her reaction thus is the desire for consistency. She would have preferred to see her identity as she perceives it mirrored by the feedback she was receiving. In the desire to be able to be perceived as consistent, it seemed preferable to make sure that failures or errors would not be seen as outliers. There are, however, many ways to interpret her reaction. A single interaction can only make us aware of an existing difference. It is a data point. The story this difference tells needs more information until it can be told.