Advertising
Advertising

How You Should Respond When Someone Gives You a Compliment

How You Should Respond When Someone Gives You a Compliment

Who doesn’t love a compliment? But how to 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[1] 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 complement 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 make others embarrassed just because they praise you

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.

Advertising

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

Advertising

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.

What you should keep in mind when you receive a compliment

Express gratitude and keep it simple

Advertising

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 them without excluding yourself or transferring all the credit to others.

Advertising

What to say after you express your gratitude

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 about displaying low self-esteem

Most people default to their version of deflection shenanigans when a compliment comes their way in an effort to appear humble. False humility and humility are not the same. A person with humility[2] 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.

Reference

[1] The Art of Manliness: How to Accept A Compliment With Class
[2] Psychology Today: Humility

More by this author

Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

Revealed: The 6 Best Beginner’s Exercises for You to Get a Strong Core Having A Backup Plan May Keep You From Achieving Your Goal, Research Finds Successful People Aren’t Gifted. They Just Master Some Goal Setting Techniques How to Stay Motivated Even Though You Can’t See Yourself Moving Forward 20 Simple Ways to Bring Positive Energy into Life Right Now

Trending in Communication

1 5 Real Relationship Goals You Should Actually Strive Toward 2 When You Learn A Second Language, These 7 Amazing Things Will Happen To You 3 15 Things To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Truly Happy 4 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 5 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

Advertising

1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

Advertising

3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

Advertising

It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

Advertising

Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next