Learn How to Take a Damn Compliment

Learn How to Take a Damn Compliment
Photo: fizkes, Shutterstock

There’s a reason it’s called “accepting” a compliment — it’s a true undertaking to receive praise. You want to do so in a way that feels humble, confident, and gracious all at the same time. But how?

I have to consciously work to avoid deflecting or flat out rejecting compliments, but this makes everyone involved feel worse from the interaction. (Of course, this assumes that you want to accept someone’s praise, and aren’t being made uncomfortable by a gross catcaller telling you to “take a compliment.”)

Compliments should instill a sense of pride, but they often bring a whole lot of anxiety, too. If you find yourself getting flustered by praise, here are some tips to gracefully take a damn compliment. Try them out if not for your own self esteem, then for the sake of everyone around you.

Don’t downplay the compliment

Your instinct to refute a compliment may be born out of humility, but it comes at the expense of the compliment giver. Think about it: What is the other person supposed to do in this situation? Keep fighting you with praise until you accept it? Agree that they were wrong, and that you’re not great after all? Any response along the lines of “that’s not true,” or “thanks, but…” only serves to 1. make you feel worse, and 2. make the compliment-giver feel awkward. Instead, take a beat to suppress the urge to downplay praise. As we’ll elaborate on below, sometimes “thank you” is all the response you need.

Avoid a compliment battle

Similar to above, it’s natural to want to redirect a compliment as soon as you receive one. Your instinct may be to compliment the original compliment-giver, but watch yourself. You could find yourself in an endless battle of compliment one-upmanship. If you’re going to praise the other person, don’t skip over whatever they told you; make sure that you’ve properly acknowledged and thanked them first.

Compliment the compliment itself

One way to make accepting a compliment more naturally is by expressing gratitude. Even if you struggle with perfectionism, self-doubt, and self-deprecation, you can channel your energy into making the compliment-giver feel good. For instance, try saying, “Thank you, you always give the best compliments” or “I appreciate you taking the time to say that, you have such a way with words.” By doing this, you’re both accepting their praise, and making them feel proud right back.

Have a go-to response

One sure-fire way to tackle compliment anxiety is by having a go-to gracious phrase locked-and-loaded. Here are some examples:

  • “Thank you, you’ve made my day.”
  • “That means a lot, I worked really hard on that!”
  • “Thank you for noticing.”
  • “I’m happy you think so.”

If you know you’re going to be in a situation where someone may offer praise, prepare yourself with a response in your back pocket.

Use “thank you” as a full response

When in doubt, don’t overthink it. Accept a compliment at face value by saying “thank you” and then allowing the conversation to move along.

Factor in body language

Have you ever given someone a compliment only to have them avoid eye contact, cross their arms, and search for a way to escape the conversation? The compliment-giver is left feeling guilty, like their praise did more harm than good.

Your body language is crucial to graciously taking a compliment. Aim to make eye contact and smile as you say, “thank you.” Even if you fluster your words, your body language can go a long way to show the complaint-giver that their words are appreciated.

Try to believe the compliment in the first place

The easiest way to accept a compliment is to actually believe you deserve that praise. Easier said than done, but all the tips above will be a lot easier once you crush the voice in your head that refuses to accept the compliment in the first place.

Unless someone is licking your boots for some reason, there are few occasions where it’s necessary for someone to go out of their way to give you a compliment. Chances are, you’ve truly earned it. Good for you. (I’m complimenting you. Accept it, damn it!)

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