praise and recognition

7 ways to accept a compliment

“7 ways to take a compliment” was written for those of you who have difficulty in receiving a compliment, and considerably more difficulty in holding onto it. In this blog I will explore why some people find compliments so challenging and what we can do to learn to accept them with more grace.

Do many people find it difficult to accept a compliment ?

Littlefield’s studies of praise and recognition found that almost 70% of study participants experienced feelings of discomfort or embarrassment when they were receiving praise.

Why do you find it so difficult to accept a compliment?

You may have low self-esteem.

If you have low self-esteem then a compliment is likely to challenge your current opinion of yourself and your self-worth.

In this situation there are two options:

  1. Accept the compliment and admit that your own view of yourself is inaccurate.
  2. Maintain your own opinion of yourself and your abilities and believe that the other person is lying, or at best, misguided.

Neither option feels comfortable when your self-esteem is low which can go a long way towards explaining why it feels better to not accept the compliment at all.

You may have a low self-image.

A low self-image and a compliment do not sit together well. The compliment causes feelings of cognitive dissonance. This is a state of mind where you struggle because the information you are receiving from different sources, e.g. your own self-view and the compliment, are conflicting.

As your mind struggles to make sense it can be easy to draw false conclusions e.g. “I didn’t really do it well, they’re just being kind,” or, “They are patronizing me.”

You may be worried that acceptance will raise the bar.

Specifically, you may believe that in accepting that you have performed well in this instance, more will be asked of you in the future; more than you will be able to achieve.

You do not want to appear arrogant.

This fear of being judged negatively may lead to you feeling unable to accept a compliment without protest.


So how can you accept a compliment more easily ?

  1. Say only two words; “Thank you”.
  2. After saying thank you, ask a question about the other person’s experience. e.g. “Thank you, what did you think about….?”
  3. After polite acceptance, share a little information about the product, process or experience. e.g. “Do you know I was really surprised by how quickly it all came together? ”
  4. Add some information about how that compliment made you feel. e.g. “I’m really pleased you like it,” “I’m feeling very motivated about the next steps now”.
  5. Thank the person for their attention. Attention is effortful and deliberate, it is good to acknowledge the directed effort that has been made. e.g. “Thank you for noticing.”
  6. Share your feelings of appreciation, especially where the compliment has been carefully considered and worded. e.g. “I appreciate you taking the time to put your thoughts into words.”
  7. Remember that when someone gives you a compliment they are giving you a gift. As such, it deserves to be treated with the same respect and acknowledgement of kindness as if it were a carefully chosen birthday present. As you honour the gift, you honour the giver.