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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 14, 2019

12 Inspirational Speeches That Teach You the Most Valuable Life Lessons

12 Inspirational Speeches That Teach You the Most Valuable Life Lessons

The most valuable thing an experienced person has is their experience. People make mistakes, learn from them, and adapt their life around them to become better people. Those people would then tell tales to others to help teach those lessons so that others would not have to make the same mistakes.

People still tell these stories today but in a slightly different format — they use speeches to express their experiences. Here are some valuable life lessons you can learn from some of the greatest inspirational speeches:

1. JK Rowling teaches us to not fear failure no matter how bad things become

It is a well-known fact that JK Rowling’s now-famous Harry Potter series was turned down by several publishers before it was finally picked up. Those publishers are likely kicking themselves in the pants right now. However, before that, JK Rowling was in a fairly dire situation and was on the brink of failure. Despite being turned down time and time again, she kept trying. Her efforts paid off. Harry Potter is now a ubiquitous character in today’s world culture. Despite failing over and over again, Rowling kept trying and fulfilled her dreams. You can watch her deliver some valuable life lessons in her Harvard commencement speech video above.

2. Steve Jobs teaches us to never settle

Steve Jobs had a fairly tumultuous life. He co-founded Apple, was kicked out of the company, came back, and then re-defined the mobile phone space with the iPhone. Even if iPhones aren’t the rage they once were, its iconic value is forever written in stone. One thing Jobs never did was settle. He lived life on his own terms and was rewarded for it by being dubbed one of the most revolutionary voices in technology of our time. In the Stanford commencement speech above, Jobs explains how you should never settle for what someone else wants out of your life. It’s your life and you should do what you want with it.

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3. Admiral William H McRaven teaches us to make our beds every day

Anyone who has gone through the basic training of a military service will tell you it’s pretty difficult. However, every seemingly obnoxious step is actually a life lesson in disguise. This even applies to flawlessly making one’s bed every single morning. As Admiral William H McRaven teaches us, recruits are taught to make their beds every morning to remind them that even the little things in life matter. After all, how can you be expected to handle the biggest obstacles in your life if you can’t even handle the small and the mundane like making your bed every day? You can watch the entire speech in the video above.

4. Author David Foster Wallace teaches us that we’re a part of a greater existence

David Foster Wallace found fame in 1987 with his book The Broom of the System. Nearly 20 years later in 2005 he game a commencement speech at Kenyon College that is worth listening to at least once. In his speech, he reminds us that was are but a part of a huge, dynamic, ever changing interaction of life forms. In order to truly experience life, we need to leave our personal bubbles and interact with others even if it’s in an unpleasant way. Wallace states, “It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.” You can watch the whole speech above.

5. Stephen Colbert teaches us that life isn’t something you can plan

If there is anyone who knows about improvisation, it’s comedian Stephen Colbert. In his commencement speech at Northwestern University in 2011, Colbert reminded students that you cannot plan life. Life throws too many curve balls. There are too many unpredictable things that can happen. The most successful and happy people are not those who have a plan, but those who can roll with the punches and overcome the obstacles. He goes on to site his time as an improv comic and how all of the actors working together to create a scene out of literally nothing are all working for one another. He states that like improv comedy, you don’t know what happens next in life. You just make it up as you go along. You can watch the whole speech above.

6. Kurt Vonnegut teaches us to not sweat the small stuff

Some of our younger readers may not know Kurt Vonnegut. He is a famous author that found of of his success during the middle of last century. In 1999, Kurt Vonnegut was at Agnes Scott College giving a commencement speech. During the speech, he mentioned that in order to live a more complete life, people needed to let stuff go. He argued that you cannot reasonably expect others to forgive you for your mistakes if you cannot forgive others and that you cannot live life fostering a personal vendetta against others.

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7. Neil Gaiman teaches us that success can be distracting.

Neil Gaiman is most known for his work in a number of literary mediums including journalism, comic books, and novels. In 2012, Gaiman gave a speech at the University of the Arts where he talked about success. He stated that when you become successful, you may be unintentionally swayed from performing the actions that made you successful. Gaiman recalled his early success and how he felt pressured to answer emails all day long and it actually prevented him from writing as much as he wanted. So he reminds us to keep doing what makes us successful and to not let others get in the way.

8. Barack Obama’s life lessons teaches us that you really can beat the odds

We know that not everyone likes Barack Obama but that doesn’t mean the man can’t deliver an amazing speech. In this 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convenction, Obama reminds that it is possible to beat the odds and become something great. He cites his own upbringing as an example and how he was never expected to make it as far as he did. It shows that when you’re passionate about something and when you try hard enough, you can accomplish almost anything. It’s important to note that Obama talks about this in 2004 and would become the President of the United States just four years later.

9. Robin Roberts reminds us that we each have the courage to overcome challenges

Robin Roberts knows a thing or two about courage. She is a breast cancer survivor and has done battle with a rare blood disease called myelodysplastic syndrome. Her sister once had to donate bone marrow just so Robin could remain alive. She was also ESPN’s first African American broadcaster in the early 1990’s. She’s a woman who works in an industry predominately populated by men. So when Robin Roberts takes the stage at the ESPYs and delivers a short lecture on having courage, we would do well to listen!

10. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us that some things are more important than success

We all know the story of Martin Luther King Jr. So much so that we have a day of the year to celebrate him as a national holiday here in the United States. Most of us have listening to segments of his famous speech where he told the world about a dream he had. The main message of his famous speech is that racial inequalities needed to end and he was absolutely right. However, he also reminds us that there are things that are more important than success such as equal rights and treating each other with respect and kindness. If you somehow made it through school without watching the famous speech, we’ve got it linked above.

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11. Jim Carrey reminds us that even if you keep it safe, you can still fail so you might as well go big

Jim Carrey delivered a commencement speech at Maharishi University recently that went absolutely viral. You may know it as the one minute video that will change your life. They weren’t lying but they weren’t telling the whole truth because the speech was actually 28 minutes long. During the speech, Carrey talks about his father who wanted to be a comedian but decided to take the safe route and become an accountant. As it turns out, his father was laid off and his family ended up poor anyway. With that, Carrey tells us that you can still end up failing even if you play it safe so you might as well swing for the fences and do what you want to do.

12. Bill Murray teaches us that it’s the hard times that determine if someone really loves you

You may have heard the story about Bill Murray crashing someone’s bachelor party and delivering a speech. It turns out the speech was both short and fairly epic. During the speech, Bill Murray challenged the bachelors to travel around the world with the women they love and go to places that are difficult to go to and deal with. He says if you can get back to the United States and you still love each other, then you should get married right then and there. It’s a great message. It’s easy to love one another when times are good but do you still love each other when the times are bad? If so, that’s true love according to Bill Murray.

Final thoughts

Inspiration comes from everywhere and from anyone. There are a countless number of speeches and stories that can teach us an incalculable number of life lessons.

All these speeches almost share the same message: Don’t be afraid to fail and keep trying.

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If you also want to live your best life like the above successful people, this is what you should start doing:

You’ll Only Live Your Best Life Once You Step Out

At the end of the day, everything is inspirational. It’s just a matter of finding the message that we need to hear to change our lives.

Featured photo credit: Miguel Henriques via unsplash.com

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