Who doesn’t love a compliment? But how do you properly receive it without making the situation awkward? If you’re like most people, you’re secretly screaming with glee on the inside while remaining overly cool on the outside. You probably shrug and give a mild deflective response in an effort to downplay or modestly reject the praise.
Social analyst categorize our response to a compliment in three different ways. We either accept, deflect or reject it. Full acceptance and rejection are the extreme ends of the spectrum. Fully accepting a compliment seems arrogant and complete denial seems rude and/or self-deprecating. Most people opt for the safe middle ground. They choose to deflect with a response that dilutes the compliment.
Here are a few dos and don’ts that will help you respond to a compliment without making the situation weird:
Don’t boomerang or “one up”
Don’t throw a compliment back just because you received one. It appears disingenuous. You should also avoid the temptation to “out-compliment” someone. Humbly accept the praise and keep it moving.
Don’t dilute or overly downplay
If you’re like me, you may be tempted to say things like, “oh it was nothing, ” or “anyone could have done it,” in an attempt to appear modest. Another downplaying technique is to narrow the compliment. For example, if someone were to tell you that you look nice, you may respond with, “Girl, it’s the dress. This dress could make a bear look slim!”
Don’t ignore it
Please, for goodness sake, acknowledge that you at least heard the compliment. Ignoring the compliment over-complicates the situation making it even more uncomfortable. The complimenter may think that you didn’t hear the comment so they are forced to repeat it. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Instead, it just dangles awkwardly in the air making the person offering the praise feel rejected.
Don’t insult yourself
This is actually one of the more common responses to praise. It looks something like this:
Praiser: “That’s a great haircut.”
You: “Well, I had to do something to hide this big forehead and make up for my witch nose. Now, maybe kids won’t run away in terror when they see me!”
Most of us don’t take it this far but we do try to “neutralize” the positive compliment by exposing something negative about our self. It’s important to remember that when you do this you diminish your own value.
Express gratitude and keep it simple
The simplest most direct way to do this is by simply saying “Thank You.” That’s it. This short and easy expression of gratitude acknowledges the compliment and displays your appreciation.
Pay attention to your body language
Be aware of your body language, facial expressions and the overall vibe you are communicating non-verbally. When you’re nervous or uncomfortable your body language may send the wrong message. Try to avoid crossing your arms or appearing disinterested. These nonverbal cues can give others the impression that you are conceited or feel that you deserve to be noticed. Work to maintain good eye contact (don’t stare–that’s weird), lean slightly forward and engage those around you with warm facial expressions.
Share–but don’t transfer–the credit
Truth is, most of what we accomplish is due, in part, to the assistance of others. Be sure to share the credit with the team without excluding yourself or transferring all the credit to others.
After you say “Thank You”
This is the hardest thing to do. This is where the most awkward moment of the exchange occurs. A person compliments you. You say “thank you.” And then there is that dreaded awkward pause. You don’t know what to say or do. Now, don’t get me wrong, saying a humble and pleasant “thanks” with open body language is enough. It is perfectly fine to stop there. Nothing more needs to be said.
But for those of us who can’t stand the pain of the silence and are unable to hold out the additional 20 seconds (the time it takes for the moment to pass), the easiest thing to do is to accept the compliment and then use it as a transition in the conversation.
For example, if you are being congratulated for winning an award for a competition or recognized for work you’ve done on a project you could say: “Thanks so much! I really enjoyed the competition (working on this project)…” And then go on to explain why you enjoyed it.
Humility is not low self-esteem
Most people default to deflection shenanigans in an effort to appear humble. False humility and humility are not the same. A person with humility maintains the proper perspective of themselves and their accomplishments. Humility is not, in any way, a display of low self-esteem, the absence of self-worth nor is it self-deprecating.
Humble people are others oriented. They value the welfare of others and are able to “forget themselves” when appropriate. Truly humble people are very self-aware. They are able to maintain the proper perspective and attitude concerning their accomplishments, gifts, and talents. This allows them to accept praise while properly sharing the credit. A confident yet humble spirit is what your response to a compliment should reflect.
- The Art of Manliness: How to Accept A Compliment With Class
- Psychology Today: Humility