Handling Compliments: A Subtle Art

Dealing with compliments: a subtle art

Handling compliments elegantly is not an easy art to master. You may find it embarrassing and downplay it, or not and you may come across as ungrateful or proud… The point is, finding a balance isn’t as easy as it seems. In fact, it’s very easy to get it wrong.

While it is true that many people only receive compliments—after all, giving a compliment is an art of an entirely different order and one that few people master—this never justifies ungrateful behavior on the part of the praised person.

We often find it so uncomfortable to receive compliments from others because we don’t know how to accept them.

If you really think about it, this is why we often nullify them and try our best not to seem arrogant. In the end, we reject the praise or compliment. We forget that others expect us to be grateful, and not necessarily humble.

And then there are the times when we use humor to decline the compliment, or when we just act a little weird. Let’s take a closer look at this…

Dealing with compliments: why do we ignore or trivialize them?

When someone gives us praise or compliments, there are several ways we can respond.

We can accept, ignore, reject or even deny the compliments. You can also respond with self-criticism, arguing or negotiating.

But why is it so hard for us to accept compliments? Why would we go out of our way to fight them off and bring ourselves down? Isn’t it nice to be appreciated for what we do or who we are?

Two women who can handle compliments well

Some of the reasons we find it difficult to fully accept a compliment include the following:

  • Fear of being seen as vain. This is the most common reason people reject or ignore a compliment. They think that if they agree with compliments from others, they are essentially praising themselves, thus being arrogant.
  • The need to restore balance. Since a compliment is a positive act, the individual may feel a psychological need to rebalance their feelings, either by denying the compliment or by quickly returning the compliment.
  • The desire not to be at fault. This concern implies that if someone does or says something nice as a compliment, you owe something similar in return. You will also be somehow in debt to that person. So by denying it, the guilt disappears.
  • Have low self-esteem. If someone says something good about us that we don’t believe, we can even deny it to ourselves. Disagreeing with this view of ourselves, we will look for a way to confirm that the other person’s evaluation is wrong.
  • An inability to be assertive. Lack of assertiveness usually makes people have a hard time accepting compliments, let alone dealing with them. That’s why we recommend practicing this social skill to improve your relationships.
  • We suspect impure motives. If we believe there is some kind of hidden agenda behind someone’s compliment, our first reaction will be to reject it. In some circumstances, we are also right about this.
  • The desire to make yourself look even better. People sometimes use false modesty as a way of trying to give a better picture of themselves. That is why we sometimes downplay compliments in order to appear good.

Dealing with compliments: how do you accept them?

Before we can learn to be thankful for compliments gracefully, we must learn to truly accept them. Compliments can come with wrong intentions and insincerity, but in most cases they come with good intentions.

Whatever the intention, people expect their compliments to be accepted. And this response should be humble—but not insincere—and grateful.

The problem is, as we’ve said, people usually reject or ignore compliments.

Man and woman having a conversation at work

Just because people often respond this way doesn’t mean it’s right, if only because responding ungratefully to compliments isn’t usually polite—or smart. In fact, denying or rejecting compliments means contradicting or even insulting the other person.

How can we handle compliments gracefully and without false modesty?

The art of handling compliments is knowing how to say thank you in a sincere and authentic way. It’s so easy. You don’t have to justify anything. You don’t have to add anything.

The person who compliments you just expects you to accept it and say thank you. In most cases, just saying thank you is enough.

Of course, we should not forget the importance of non-verbal communication, especially when it comes to what we convey with our eyes. Looking at someone as you thank them, or perhaps shaking hands if appropriate, is essential.

Sometimes giving a hug is the right thing to do. Such gestures are usually much more important than anything we can say.

If the compliment is the result of a concerted effort, don’t forget to acknowledge the contributions of the other people as well, especially those that are sometimes overlooked.

Mentioning the people who have helped and inspired you or who went through something with you is a great way to recognize their worth.

Conversation between a man and a woman

In any case, don’t say small things to reject the compliment. Things like ‘it didn’t mean anything’, or ‘no dude’, or ‘no problem’ show false modesty and can be taken as a personal rejection.

If you want to say something more than just thank you, aim to say something positive.

You should also avoid thanking people by returning the compliment. Many people believe that responding to a compliment by returning a compliment is grateful, but it just sounds forced and insincere.

If you work hard to get where you are, if you try your best to look your best every day, why turn down the great feedback you get from others? You deserve it. 

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button