How to Accept Compliments

Posted by Todd Smith

From a very young age, all of us were taught how to accept a gift: say thank you, say something nice about the gift, and, above all, don’t say you don’t like it (even if you don’t), because that will hurt the feelings of the giver.

This advice is as good today as it was when you were five years old. It still applies whenever you receive a gift—and that includes the gift of a compliment.

Graciously accepting a compliment in any setting is not only good manners, it’s a sign of someone who is confident and self-assured. It’s also a way to build rapport by acknowledging the compliment paid.

Today’s lesson on accepting compliments will help you see that this little thing can be a huge boost to your reputation.

A Social Skill Worth Doing Well

There are a number of theories as to why people have a hard time accepting compliments. Reasons range from wanting to appear modest or not feeling as if the compliment is deserved to doubting the sincerity of the person giving the compliment.

What you may not realize, however, is that rejecting, deflecting, or not properly acknowledging a compliment creates a negative impression for three specific reasons:

1.  Discounts the intentions of the person giving the compliment
2.  Sends the message that you think the giver’s opinion is flawed
3.  Suggests that you don’t value your own abilities or talents

Remember that everybody is busy.  We all have our own concerns to look after, so when someone takes notice of something we’ve done well and makes an effort to tell us, we owe it to them to acknowledge their thoughtfulness.

Do You Recognize a Compliment When You Hear One?

Defined as an expression of praise, commendation, or admiration, compliments should be pretty easy to recognize but can be tough to spot when we’re focused on ourselves. Here are two examples:

Have you lost weight, Mary? You look terrific!”

  • “It must be the outfit.”

Mary is sending a message that she’s self-conscious about her weight and/or doesn’t deserve credit for her efforts.

I’m really happy with the way you handled yourself on that call, Bill.”

  • “Yeah, but I wish I would have remembered to tell them about the discount.

Bill is sending a message that he doesn’t think he’s good enough and that he is not able to see the potential benefit that may come from his contribution.

Responding to a Compliment

These two examples may seem obvious, but remember that compliments come in many forms. Whatever the situation, there is a proper way to acknowledge praise, commendation, or admiration.

  • Make eye contact. Acknowledging a compliment is a perfect time to connect with someone. Look the person in the eye when you respond. Doing so communicates sincerity and self-confidence.
  • Say “Thank you.” A sincere, unhurried ‘thank you’ along with a smile and eye contact is more often than not all that is necessary.
  • Don’t explain anything. If you feel moved, you can follow your ‘thank you’ with something positive. Doing so communicates desirable character traits, such as friendliness and positivity. Caution: If you can’t keep it brief and will be tempted to explain or rationalize your action or accomplishment, leave it at a simple “thank you.”

Here’s how it might sound if Mary and Bill put this advice into practice:

Have you lost weight, Mary? You look terrific!”

  • Thanks, Barb. I feel great, too.

I’m really happy with the way you handled yourself on that call, Bill.”

  • Thank you, Jim. I appreciate the feedback.

Quite a difference, wouldn’t you say? My challenge for you today is three-fold:

1.  Listen for compliments given to others as you go about your business over the next week. How many times do you hear people rejecting or ignoring a compliment they receive?
2.  Give more compliments than you normally would. Notice the responses people give.
3.  Finally, put today’s advice into practice the very next time you receive a compliment.

Acknowledging a compliment paid is a simple, yet very effective way to make a positive impression and build a favorable reputation.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.

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