Do you feel awkward when you hear a compliment? Ever wish you knew the perfect thing to say? Here’s how to respond to a compliment in the best way!
Let’s face it, very few of us can actually accept a compliment, and even fewer know how to respond to a compliment calmly without running the risk of turning into a motormouth.
Many of us live in fear of being complimented because we just don’t know how to react, and generally, when we are complimented, our knee-jerk reaction is to ignore it, deny it or deflect it.
How did you react the last time someone gave you a compliment? Did you blush and turn your eyes to the floor? Or perhaps you went to great lengths to contradict the compliment, claiming “it was nothing”, giving 101 reasons why it just isn’t the case, and explaining why the person dishing out the compliment is actually far better than you at everything and anything?
Why it’s important for you to learn to accept compliments
It’s about time that we all learn how to accept the compliments we receive with confidence. So, here is a definitive guide to doing just that!
Compliments are meant to make you feel good and build your self-esteem. But, if you aren’t accepting them or deflect them, you do yourself a disservice and potentially offend the person who tries to make you feel good.
Your response to a compliment is not only important to not offend the compliment giver, but also to build your self-esteem. If someone compliments you, accept it, stick it in your pocket, and feel good someone noticed how fantastic you are.
How to respond to a compliment
It is natural for people to want to divert good attention and downplay their successes, achievements, or looks. Kind of a modesty thing, if someone says, “I like your jeans,” your first instinct may be to say, “Oh, these old things? They are decades out of style.”
What you should say is simple. Just thank you! Allow good things to be said to you and about you by accepting them and taking them to heart instead of pushing them back.
Why you feel awkward accepting a compliment
I get it, sometimes, accepting a compliment can feel really awkward. And that usually stems from the belief that you don’t deserve it. But if someone’s complimenting something about you, big chances are, they noticed it and deemed it worthy of a compliment.
If there’s anything awkward about the compliment, it’s the belief that you don’t think you’re worthy of the compliment. The next time someone compliments you, and you feel slightly embarrassed, don’t obsess over why they complimented you. Just accept it.
And when you’re home later, stare into the mirror for a minute and ask yourself, really, what is it that makes you believe you’re not worthy of being complimented in the first place?
So is it really that bad or high-handed of you to accept something about yourself that others appreciate? We don’t think so!
The 5 big reasons we can’t accept a compliment
The first step towards learning to accept a compliment and respond appropriately is realizing why we feel the need to reject them in the first place! Maybe one or more of these 5 reasons will strike a chord with you?
#1 We wish to appear humble. As human beings, we constantly worry how our words and actions might be perceived by others. One of our main fears is being deemed as arrogant. After all, it is often one of the top criticisms we may have about others, so perish the thought that someone else might believe YOU to be arrogant!
As a result, we often believe that by rejecting a compliment, putting ourselves down, and downplaying our achievements, we might seem more humble and modest.
#2 We bully ourselves. Some of us are self-deprecating, self-destructive and self-bullying. It comes from our unrealistic ideals of perfection, and the pressure and expectations we put on ourselves to meet those ideals.
Every single one of us falls short of perfection because it is unattainable. Yet, we still choose to constantly put ourselves down and bully ourselves into believing that we are not good enough.
As a consequence, many of us then reject compliments because we genuinely believe that they are undeserved.
#3 We can’t stand the pressure. Many of us dread receiving compliments because we feel that they heighten the expectations of ourselves.
For example, if someone were to compliment you on your outfit on one particular day, would you then feel pressured to look equally as amazing every other day for fear of forever being judged against that one particularly good version of yourself on that one particularly good day?
We attempt to remedy this situation by rejecting the compliment in the first place and downplaying our achievements for fear of being a disappointment to others in the future.
#4 We are distrusting. When receiving a compliment, it is often difficult to perceive whether the other person is being sincere. Perhaps they have a motive or are trying to provoke a particular reaction?
Cast your minds to cult teen movie from the early 2000s “Mean Girls” and the infamous Queen Bee, Regina George. In one particular scene, she stops a fellow classmate in the hallway and pays her a compliment: “Oh my god, I love your skirt! Where did you get it?”
The moment the girl turns her back, she mutters: “That is the ugliest f***ing skirt I’ve ever seen.” Many of us, living in fear of a moment like this, attempt to save face by denying the compliment and attempting to align our response with what we believe is the complimenter’s true opinion.
#5 We love to criticize. As a society, we have a knack for spotting flaws. Most of us have sat around with our friends complaining about the veins on our legs, the pores on our nose and the excess fat around our hip bones.
After all, you are surely the most qualified person to make judgment on yourself, right? You could even go as far to say that we enjoy complaining about ourselves as much as we like complaining about others!
Consequently, we often find it easier to accept criticism over compliments, simply because they are more often in agreement with our own beliefs.
Furthermore, we subconsciously believe that by accepting a compliment, you are admitting that you were wrong about yourself, which many of us have trouble admitting.
Are all compliments complimentary?
That is not to say all compliments are meant to be complimentary. There are times when someone gives you what sounds like a compliment, but it really isn’t. Backhanded compliments are the way people build you up only to knock you down.
They are the type you need to deflect quickly and move forward. If someone uses a compliment to manipulate you or come on creepily, still take it, but send a clear message that you know what the intention is and you aren’t interested.
The 5 main reasons why you should learn to accept a compliment
Before we get to learning how to respond to compliments the right way, it’s time to flip your internal script and dispel your fears when it comes to receiving compliments! Here are 5 reasons why.
#1 You appear more humble by accepting the compliment. Rejecting a compliment can actually make you appear hostile and obnoxious, NOT humble and modest.
Ordinarily, you might respond to a compliment such as “Your hair looks lovely today” with a reply like “Oh, it’s horrible and greasy… I haven’t washed it for days”.
You might think you are just putting yourself down in order to look modest, but in effect, you are also unintentionally saying: “You’re wrong and I’m right and this is why,” which is pretty arrogant, don’t you think? You are much better off accepting the compliment in a respectful and gracious manner.
#2 You save the complimenter from shame and embarrassment. By giving you a compliment, a person has gone out of their way to make you feel good about yourself by verbalizing something positive that they have noticed about you.
It also often takes courage to pay a compliment. By deciding not to accept the compliment, you are dooming their efforts to failure, you run the risk of causing them embarrassment, and you are disrespecting their ability to form judgments.
Protect the feelings of the complimenter and see accepting a compliment as a compliment in return!
#3 You can call the complimenter’s bluff. Even if you believe the compliment to be insincere, you are still better off accepting it. If the complimenter is being disingenuous, their aim is most likely to make you feel small and vulnerable, and to knock your confidence.
By giving them the opposite response, you are calling their bluff and denying them of the satisfaction of seeing you squirm. So, muster up as much courage as possible and deliver your acceptance with maximum confidence and poise.
#4 You should celebrate your achievements. We never fail to give ourselves a hard time over our failings, so why should we fail to congratulate ourselves for our achievements?
You can begin to do so by accepting the compliments and rewards given to you by others! View a compliment as an opportunity to boost your self esteem and avoid the pitfalls of negative thinking. After all, having confidence and sense of pride in yourself can lead you to further success!
#5 You will be more liked by others. Our happiness partly relies on the state of our relationships and the success of our social interactions. And, the simple truth is that people are more likely to be drawn to you and to like you if you have a positive and confident frame of mind.
Therefore, rejecting compliments and responding to them in a negative way will have the complete opposite effect. So, accepting compliments with a friendly and positive outlook leads to positive outcomes.
How to respond to a compliment without feeling awkward
The next time someone compliments you and you find yourself shuffling your toes awkwardly inside your shoes, take a breath, smile and use these any of these points below.
#1 Say thank you. Yep, it really is that easy. If someone compliments you, there is no need to be shy about it. Just accept it and say, “Thank you.” Don’t feel the need to follow it up by giving them a charity “back at ya” compliment. Simply say thank you.
This is the number one step when it comes to accepting a compliment. A simple “thank you” is often all it takes! Expressing thanks will never cause others to make presumptions about the size of your ego, and you can only ever come across as gracious and courteous!
Add a smile, eye contact and confident body language to show your complimenter that your gratitude is genuine and true.
#2 Show some extra appreciation. Follow up your expression of gratitude with some extra appreciation for the person who gave you the compliment. For example, “Thank you… You’re so kind for saying so” or “Thank you… It makes me feel great that you noticed. I have been trying so hard on that!” The complimenter will truly feel like they hit the right spot!
#3 Give credit where credit is due. When accepting a compliment, always be sure to acknowledge when it was a group effort and give credit where it’s due. Share the compliment with any others who were involved in the successful endeavor. What’s more, if the complimenter had a hand in your achievements, be sure to let them know!
#4 Turn the compliment into a conversation. If you fear you might be left in awkward silence after accepting the compliment with thanks, why not turn the compliment into a conversation?
If someone gives you a compliment about your outfit, then give them information about where you purchased it and when you got it. But, try not to put yourself down by degrading the compliment or downplaying it by making your outfit less than fantastic. You can tell them where you got it, but you don’t have to say you bought it half off. Leave that to the imagination.
If the person commented on your new shoes, they might like to know where you got them from? Perhaps, there were other shoes in the shop that caught your eye?
#5 Don’t deflect it. If someone gives you a compliment, don’t deflect it by picking apart what they complimented you on by showing them your faults. What do we mean by that? If someone says, “I love the color of your lipstick,” don’t say something like, “Yeah, I bought it to cover up this awful cold sore.”
It only lessens the good intention the complimenter sends you. Maybe they noticed your cold sore and wanted to downplay it. Maybe they didn’t, but who cares? Take it. It isn’t your responsibility to point out the faults in yourself. It is your job to boost yourself up.
#6 Return the favor… later. Returning the compliment immediately after receiving one may come across as disingenuous and false. You don’t want to be seen as paying a compliment for the sake of paying a compliment! However, do make a mental note to repay the kindness by delivering a sincere compliment the next time you notice something you genuinely like about that person.
#7 Use it to flirt back. If someone compliments you, and you are interested in them, take that compliment and expand on it to make it a conversation. Sometimes, a compliment is a way for a person to make a connection and to start up a conversation.
If you are on board, find a way to tie the compliment into opening up a dialogue. For instance, if someone you like says, “Hey, do you work out? You look fit.” You can start a whole conversation over the compliment about what things you like to do. Turn the compliment into a way to get to know someone.
#8 If it isn’t the compliment you are looking for. Did you ever have someone tell you, you look like someone. When they say who, they mean it to be a compliment, but you think “ouch, that person is not so pretty.”
Try to take it with dignity, realizing they meant it as a compliment. Just because you don’t think the person they think you look like is attractive, they must, or they wouldn’t be calling you ugly with a smile… at least not most people.
Compliments are funny things. Sometimes meant to make you feel good, sometimes meant to put you in your place, and sometimes their intention is not how they are heard. If someone pays you a compliment, the best way to respond is to think about why they complimented you. If sincere, use it to your advantage or shut them down completely.
The best way to respond is to take it with grace when it is meant to be kind or to give it right back if it was not. But, never try to deflect it or put yourself down to belittle the nice incoming message.
#9 If it is backhanded, give it right back. There are occasions when a compliment can be backhanded. Backhanded compliments are things like “You know you are really pretty, you could probably be a plus-sized model.”
They are compliments that on the surface are nice, but there is an undertone of hostility you are meant to feel. If someone gives you a backhanded compliment, then give it right back. Don’t let them get away with giving a compliment meant to degrade. Let them know with a snarky comeback that you know their compliment wasn’t real.
#10 Give a charity compliment if that’s what they want. If you feel someone fishes for a compliment, then it is okay to take the compliment and give a charity one back.
For instance, if someone says, “I like your hair,” and they run their own hands through their hair intentionally, or have done something different to theirs, they’re probably looking for a return compliment. So, just give it to them. If that is what they need to feel better, give them what they need. It makes you both feel good.
#11 If you aren’t interested. Now, if someone gives you a compliment, and it is because you know they are interested and you know that you are not, respond with thank you. But, try to shut it down quickly.
Compliments are nice, but if a someone flirting with you comes on too strong, or says something inappropriate or creepy, because they want to get in your pants, say thanks, smile, and walk away. Listen to that little instinct telling you the compliment was over the top and way out of context. Find a new place to be.
How to respond to a compliment over text
Now, most of us assume responding to a compliment over text is way different from accepting a compliment in person. But if you think about it, it’s almost the same. You can use any of the lines we’ve gone through above. But want something specific for texting?
You just have hundreds of emojis to express yourself in a way your words can’t, which is awesome! Don’t know what to say?
Use a “see no evil” monkey face with hand over eyes emoji.
Use a big smiling face.
Say “awww… you’re so sweet!”
Or use just about any other emoji that would be appropriate to your relationship and the compliment. *maybe not an eggplant emoji though*
How to respond when someone says thank you!
And finally, the polar opposite of accepting and responding to compliments. And this is just a tidbit you should know. What do you say to someone when they say thank you to you?
Awkward? Not really! If it’s over text, just use an emoji back. If it’s in person, just smile back. And immediately, continue the conversation from before the compliment. Waiting for the other person to say something makes everything awkward. So instead of waiting too long *3 seconds can feel like a lifetime*, allow them to thank you for the compliment, smile warmly and continue talking.
And that’s how you learn to give compliments, accept compliments, and respond to compliments in a way that’ll leave everyone feeling warm and happy!
Next time you receive a nice compliment and wonder how to respond to the compliment, think twice before shying away or dismissing it. There will ALWAYS be more advantages for accepting it! You‘ll be surprised at how easily it can be done with confidence and class, and afterwards you‘ll feel 10 feet tall!