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The Art of Receiving a Compliment

I love compliments

Women, tell me if you’re familiar with this scenario: You tell a colleague that her work on a presentation was stellar — clear, concise, funny, thoughtful. You walked away with amazing insights and tell her you appreciate her hard work.

And then she brushes it off.

“Oh, it wasn’t that good,” she says.

Or, “I had a lot of help.”

Or maybe even: “I could have done better if I had done more to prepare.”

Sound familiar? You might be cringing right now because you’ve been that woman throwing away a compliment as if it were a hot potato. Can you imagine a man doing such a thing? Why is it that we have such a difficult time just saying, “Thank you! I worked hard.” Or, even better, taking that compliment to heart and really savouring it?

The urge to throw away compliments is real. According to a study by Robert Herbert, a sociolinguist, compliments given from one man to another were accepted 40 percent of the time. Yet women accept only a dismal 22 percent of compliments from other women. (Interestingly, woman accept compliments 68 percent of the time when given by men.)

What makes us throw up our compliment armor? There are several reasons why.

  1. We don’t want to stand out. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true: Women who stand out from the crowd can be perceived as overly ambitious or social climbers. Rejecting a compliment keeps you on a level playing field.

  2. We don’t want to seem stuck up. Accepting a compliment can make it seem like you’re acknowledging something good about yourself — and in a woman’s world, even the simple act of saying “thank you” can be perceived as self-aggrandizement.

  3. We think we’re being tricked. Laura Brannon of Kansas State University says that if we think the complimenter wants something out of us, we’re less likely to believe the compliment.

So what would the world look like if women started accepting more compliments? Personally, I think more women would be empowered in their day-to-day lives and more courageous in business. When someone gives me a compliment, I take it. If you want to take the time to tell me something nice, I want to take the time to enjoy it. And it shows respect to the compliment giver!

Here are my three tips for accepting any compliment:

  1. Don’t deflect. Accept the compliment. Say thank you. Not “thank you, but …” Just “thank you.” There’s no need to deflect well-earned praise.

  2. Don’t insult yourself. Not only does insulting yourself lower your self-esteem, it puts the complimenter in the uncomfortable situation of not only offering you a compliment but also acting as your psychotherapist. Take your praise!

  3. Avoid a compliment battle. There’s no need to one-up your compliment with another compliment. Not only can the situation turn awkward fast, but you don’t want your compliment to come across as insincere. Save your compliments for when you can be thoughtful and authentic.

What are you going to do the next time someone gives you a compliment? Tell me in the comments below! If you’d like tips on how to give praise, check out this blog post on how to craft the perfect compliment.

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