If you’re like most people, you politely deflect a compliment. While many think that shows humility, in fact, it may be insulting. Think about how you feel when you offer a sincere compliment and the receiver brushes it off — you’d probably prefer that they smile and say “thank you.”
While a simple “thank you” is often the best way to respond to a compliment, it also depends on the circumstances. Assess your own feelings and take into account the other person’s motivations. When in doubt, an affirmative nod and smile are courteous and should prevent any awkwardness.
Why You Should Accept Compliments
You can send the wrong message if you refuse a compliment. In the workplace, it can come across as a lack of confidence or low self-esteem, which reflects poorly on your ability to handle a leadership role. It also creates a barrier between yourself and the person offering the compliment. Some people may feel like you are not willing to accept their kindness.
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When you accept a sincere compliment, you benefit from the good feeling that comes with it. You boost the person offering the compliment by showing them that you value their judgment. If you accept a compliment with grace, you are more likely to receive more compliments in the future. If you consistently refuse praise, praise is less likely to come.
Assessing the Source
Not all compliments are the same. Some are intended to curry favor, and you may opt to politely refuse these comments. Alternatively, you may simply say “thank you” without taking the words to heart. Awdhesh Singh writes on Quora that she is put off by subordinates who compliment her instead of working harder. Singh also claims to laugh when friends offer compliments because she believes friends don’t need to be thanked.
How to Accept a Compliment
It’s hard to go wrong with “thank you” when someone gives you a compliment, but there are tweaks to the protocol depending on the circumstances. You can return the compliment with an accolade of your own — but only if it sounds sincere. Otherwise, you can put off the giver, as they may sense your lack of authenticity — even if you were well-intentioned.
When you have worked collaboratively on a project for which you’ve received praise, it’s appropriate to share credit. Saying something like, “Thank you. We worked together on the issue, I’m glad it was a success,” both shows appreciation for the positive words and acknowledges your co-worker.
If the compliment is particularly meaningful, there’s nothing wrong with following up your “thank you” with more details. In response to a compliment on a piece of artwork you’ve created, you can talk about what inspired you to create it.
When you are being honored by a group, like at a business dinner, you should accept the accolade gratefully. Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore wrote in Entrepreneur that you should accept an award — like a plaque or trophy — with your left hand, leaving your right hand open to provide a handshake in return. In these circumstances, it’s also appropriate to acknowledge team members and supporters who have contributed to your success.
Give More Compliments
If you struggle with accepting compliments, go out of your way to give compliments to others. When the opportunity arises, you can see how another person’s reaction makes you feel. That way, you’ll be more informed about what creates a positive social situation. You’ll be better able to respond appropriately the next time someone offers you a kind word.
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