How to Take Compliments

Congratulations! You've earned somebody's respect and admiration. What do you say to that? If you're flustered by praise, it's time to learn how to take a compliment at face value and appreciate the best of it. After all, you're worth it, right?


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    Understand what deflecting a compliment is really about. If you're uncomfortable receiving compliments, it's likely that you discount compliments and thereby stop the compliments from being made by that person again. The ways of discounting a compliment include: suggesting that it was nothing or that someone else could have done it better, thinking that the person paying you a compliment must be after something from you, being embarrassed and blushing or giving a compliment in return, being sarcastic or insisting that the he or she doesn't mean it. Each of these ways of deflecting a compliment results in putting down both yourself and the giver of the compliment, so they're not actually very giving or kind responses. If you have these problems in relation to accepting compliments, try to see the motivation for discounting compliments in a different light:
    • Modesty: If you think that you're being modest by deflecting a compliment, think again. Modesty is a virtue, provided it isn't taken to an extreme; like any other trait, it has to exist in moderation. Modesty becomes a noose around your neck when it cripples your style and causes you to overlook what you're good at and the skills that define you. If you feel you need to compare yourself to someone who is always going to be "better" than you, then it's time to stop the comparisons, lower the bar of modesty and start respecting the good things about yourself a whole lot more.
    • Distrust: If you discount a compliment because you lack trust in the motivations of the giver, then you're being aggressive or hostile. You're immediately assuming that this person is being sycophantic and is weaseling their way into your good books just for their own purposes. While there is a possibility from time to time that an occasional person might be telling a white lie, most people are genuine about giving compliments and deciding on whether or not someone is trustworthy on the basis of compliments is a daft approach to life.
    • Trying to match the compliment: If you feel obliged to give a compliment in return for a compliment, it's likely that you're a people pleaser and that you're trying to self-efface by batting back the compliment. If you think "I can't keep this compliment, they deserve it more than me!" and immediately scramble to bat it back to them, then it's possible you're denying the beauty of the compliment you earned based on your own behavior and way of being.
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    Think about taking a compliment as an exercise in being assertive. An assertive person knows their self worth and appreciates acknowledgement, but neither seeks it out nor rebuffs it when received. More importantly, an assertive response is a recognition that you are worth the compliment and that you are entitled to quell any negative voice that seeks to deflect the compliment.
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    See accepting a compliment as a compliment in itself. In accepting a compliment, you are telling the other person that you trust their judgment, their wisdom and their sense of self. Accepting compliments also tells the other person that you appreciate what they have to say about you. More than anything, focus on receiving the compliment rather than on its content. This helps you to acknowledge the compliment and express appreciation for it being given to you. Most importantly, since giving a compliment is a form of uttering an opinion, stop yourself from disagreeing with it or you risk downplaying someone else's opinion.
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    Decide how you'd like to take the compliment. While it's clear that you can deflect or discount a compliment in various ways, you can also respond to a compliment positively in a number of ways. It really depends upon the context that you're in and how you're perceiving the compliment. In particular, you can choose an appropriate response to a compliment depending on whether you'd like to accept the compliment itself at face value, even if you don't agree with it, or if you'd like to accept the compliment's substance and reflect that in your response, perhaps even using it to engage on further conversation.
    • When accepting the compliment as it is, even if it's not something you agree with, keep the reply simple and stay focused on the fact of receiving the compliment and be appreciative that the person was happy to compliment you. Some examples are:
      • "Thank you very much" or just "thank you". These are simple, timeless classics that should be easy enough to utter even if the compliment has caught you off guard. If that's all you can think to say, leave it at that.
      • "Thanks, I appreciate that."
      • "Thank you; that's a really lovely thing to say."
      • "Thanks - that makes me feel really good."
      • "Thanks. That means a lot to me."
      • "Thanks, you're a kind person."
    • When accepting a compliment in a way that shows that you're appreciative of the substance of the compliment, this can really help to make the person giving the compliment feel that they've hit the right spot. Some examples are:
      • "Thanks. I'm really glad you noticed that because it's something I'm proud of too."
      • "Thanks! I'm so enthusiastic about this project, so it's great to know you're keen too."
      • "Thanks. I like it too – that's why I bought it even though I had to save up for ages."
      • "Thanks. I had fun making it and it's great to know you like it."
      • "Thanks. It has been in my family for generations."
      • "Thank you! I tried really hard." This is a really good response when somebody has praised your effort, as there is never any harm in acknowledging effort and that the outcome wasn't simply a fluke.
    • It's often good to use the compliment to further conversation. Say something like: "Thanks! I found it in New Look - it's amazing what you can get there." That way you've accepted the compliment and moved on to something about which you can both talk.
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    Smile. When taking a compliment, smiling says a lot without requiring you to say anything. You've probably earned it, so enjoy your moment in the spotlight. Also, pay attention while you're being complimented. If you give a person a half-hearted reply such as "Whatever" or "Mhm," don't expect that person to be quick to compliment you again. An expressive "thank you" is much better than a dreary "Uh-huh".
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    If you suspect that the sincerity of the compliment is questionable or the compliment is confusing, you might want to open up an opportunity to explore it. This step is absolutely optional because on the whole, this approach is not recommended for the very reason that there is more to be gained from letting insincere compliments float off you unacknowledged than there is by tackling them. Be totally aware that it would be really unfortunate if you have misjudged the compliment and see insincerity where there is none – that could really offend the other person. However, if you feel that you really need to question the compliment, you might approach it like this:
    • "It just strikes me that you didn't make a sincere compliment then. Are you being open/frank with me when you say that you like what I am wearing/doing/writing/creating, etc? I'd rather know that you're not happy about something I've done/said than to dance around the edges. At least if I know, I can strive to make changes."
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    Return a compliment later. Remember when a person has complimented you and note that it's nice and courteous to return it in a short space of time. Some people like to compliment straight away, but as discussed above, you do need to be very careful that you're doing this for genuine reasons and not simply as a way of discounting the original compliment made to you. If you're not sure, then don't give a compliment at the time you're given one, but do remember to return a compliment at another opportune moment. In fact, just get into the habit of making regular compliments through seeing the good in others and expressing this openly, as a part of who you are.
    • Simply say something nice about the person who gave you a compliment. A great way to return the favor is to compliment on something of theirs and smile. Be sure to notice the efforts they put into things; everyone loves having their efforts acknowledged.
    • If you haven't anything nice to say though, say nothing at all. Keeping your mouth shut is better than conjuring up false reasons to compliment another person.
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    Give credit where credit is due. Share the compliment with the whole group of friends, family or coworkers. If you couldn't have done something you've been complimented for without them, say so. This is especially important if the person giving the compliment was responsible for your success.


  • Keep it brief. Don't try to fill a loss for words with a lot of extra words that don't belong.
  • Don't ever argue a compliment out. Just because you feel that your accomplishment wasn't really all that hard or that the compliment didn't really fit doesn't mean you have to protest or object to the compliment. If you're uncomfortable with the compliment for some reason, keep the response absolutely minimal but polite – smile, say thanks, and let it go.
  • Don't fish for more. Accept the compliment graciously and move on. Preening for compliments is a sign of immaturity and insecurity; deal with these underlying issues if you actively seek out compliments.
  • Not all compliments are about your looks. Consider compliments about your character and personality to carry much greater weight than external appearances.
  • If you're afraid of an awkward silence after being complimented, move the conversation along without blowing their compliment off. If they like your sweater, tell them where you got it. If they say that your hair looks especially nice, tell them where you got it done. However, be sure not to do so in a way that could be taken as bragging or fishing for more praise.
  • Remember that you are just as entitled to receive compliments as everyone else. Don't try to shy away from them.
  • Don't change the topic without acknowledging the compliment. If they took the time to compliment you, it was definitely genuine, and should be handled as such.
  • Others have done this before. This is no reason others have climbed Everest but that still doesn't mean someone who climbed Everest should not get a compliment.
  • Practice these steps in a mirror. Just imagine someone says something nice, then say "Aww, thank you. That means a lot to me."
  • Not every compliment is sarcasm, some people genuinely believe you look good or do something well!


  • Don't become so good at accepting a compliment that you forget to give them out from time to time as well!
  • Don't object, or say anything along the lines of, "Oh, no, I was awful!" This is rude, makes them feel stupid, and besides, you're insulting their sense of taste or judgment if you say something negative back. Even if you disagree with them, saying something negative could make you sound boorish and arrogant.
  • If they compliment your clothes or shoes don't say "Oh, this old thing?", as this is an impolite brush-off; accept that they truly think it is nice.
  • Gratitude isn't necessary when it's an insult delivered as a compliment. "You're so intelligent for someone of your (race/gender/class/background)" is not a compliment. It's a bigoted insult. Be aware of the difference and decide how to handle the insult as what it is. Calling them on it may be appropriate under the circumstances.
  • Refrain from saying "Thanks! I paid a lot for it, it should be nice" or anything similar. This also makes you look egotistical and rude. It also may imply that you may have a lot of money, or not very much.
  • Try not to say something like: "Thanks, I like them too". It makes you redundant. If you wear something you usually like it, unless it is one of those bunny-eared footsie pajamas your grandmother made that you are forced to wear. But people understand that better.
  • Compliments can also be inappropriate. If complimented on your appearance or taste as a response to a major achievement, look at the context. Someone may be throwing in an extra compliment - or trying to trivialize the achievement. You can tell by the tone.

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