How to Take A Compliment

Jess Ann Kirby discusses wears an Everlane wrap sweater with boyish jeans and Veja sneakers.

Outfit details: Sweater (xs) // Jeans (24) // Sneakers (went up half size) // Shell Necklace (size: penny) // Medallion Necklace // Shell Ring

Have you ever done the following in response to someone complimenting you?…

Put yourself down
Deflect and give someone else the credit
Assume the person didn’t actually mean it
Attribute it to luck
Change the subject
All of the above…yeah, same.

This skit with Amy Schumer could not be a more accurate depiction of what I’m talking about. Offer me a compliment and I’ll tell you all the reasons why I don’t deserve the praise. The problem with that is,  when we are unable to accept nice things someone says about us, it’s damaging to our own confidence. But we must appear humble and modest right? Yes, this is true, but you can be humble and take a compliment.

When I offer someone a compliment and they immediately shoot it down it can actually be a bit of a buzzkill. For example, “Your hair looks great” met with a response like “Oh my god no, I look shit.” Most of us have been in this scenario. And despite knowing that I would rather the person just accept my compliment (and that I do not expect one in return), I find it hard to accept one myself. I might awkwardly laugh it off, give credit to someone else or make a self-deprecating joke. While I do think there’s always room for humor and we all need to be able to laugh at ourselves, we also need to be able to take a compliment.

When I started writing this post I did a little research and quickly realized it’s a hotly debated issue. Just google “how to take a compliment” and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of articles instructing you how to “graciously” accept a compliment “with class.” But is that really the point? So many of the articles I read perpetuated this idea that as women, we can’t really just accept a compliment at face value. Rather we should “compliment the complimenter,” “acknowledge your teams effort” or “smile a lot.”

Of course we should give credit where it’s due and yes it’s nice to return the favor when someone offers you a compliment but it’s not, nor should it be a requirement. Think of a compliment as a gift. If someone gave you a gift you wouldn’t turn it down, so why do that when you’re offered a compliment. I think some of this is cultural and in fact I remember being on a trip with a group of women, one of whom was from Spain. Another person on the trip gave her a compliment and she responded with “I know.” The person offering the compliment was British, we both somewhat awkwardly laughed at her response. But shortly after I thought, wow, good for her. She accepted the compliment and it showed. It was visible in her body language and demeanor that she allowed herself to receive it. And that is the beauty of accepting a compliment.

Studies have shown that receiving praise can boost motivation and improve your brain’s ability to remember and repeat new skills. So the next time someone compliments your success at work try saying “Thank you so much I worked really hard.” When a friend compliments your outfit or your hair maybe respond with “Thank you, you made my day.” Let the praise soak in, allow yourself to believe it, after all, it could actually be true.

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
– Mark Twain

3 Comments

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  1. Laurie says:

    Touché for addressing this as it really highlights a behavior women need to shed. I mean have you ever heard a guy deflect, deny or reject a compliment? I will say as II have gotten older and hopefully wiser, when receiving a sincere compliment,I have learned to try and accept it as those old defenses fade away. As a therapist once told me, compliments are free and go a long way! Great post-just say thank you! 😉

  2. Julia says:

    This is so true!! I have worked on this over the years and am now able to receive the compliment with honesty and gratitude. I also liken it to when someone wants to help you, or give you a gift, treat you to something, etc. If you refuse, you are actually robbing them of the experience of doing something kind for you. If you shoot down the compliment, you are depriving yourself of praise, and also preventing the one giving the compliment from expressing positivity or support.

  3. Holly says:

    This is such a great point! A person giving a compliment is actually making themselves vulnerable–they didn’t have to give that compliment, and it’s communicating to them that their compliment wasn’t well received. It may make them not want to give people compliments in the future.

    I usually say something like, “Thank you! That’s so sweet!” Or if it’s a compliment about something I’m wearing, I’ll thank them and then let them know where I found it.

    Thank you for writing this! (See what I did there? :))