Gracefully receiving compliments is an art that many people struggle to master despite the growing evidence that giving and receiving compliments benefits us in many ways.
If you’ve ever felt squeamish when someone directs a compliment at you, then you’re not alone—and there are many understandable reasons for why people have difficulty when showered with praises.
The first reason is that most people don’t want to be perceived as having an inflated ego, which generates a sense of discomfort when someone acknowledges something positive about you or what you’ve accomplished. People think that accepting the compliment essentially means that they agree with the compliment and are therefore actively acknowledging their own greatness—which is pretty much bragging, something we’ve been trained not to do from childhood.
To avoid this uneasy feeling, people tend to deflect compliments by straight out denying what they’ve been complimented for (“No, I’m actually not that good at _____”), or by minimizing their accomplishment (“It wasn’t even that difficult”). Another reaction is to bring to attention all the other people who should be credited for the achievement (“Honestly, Penelope did most of the work”).
Denying the compliment and minimizing the accomplishment are both problematic. To properly benefit from a compliment, it should make you feel good, and it should make the one doling out the compliment feel good, too. If you deny or minimize, then you’ll begin to link compliments with negative self-talk, which will actually make you feel worse. Plus, the person giving you the compliment will not experience as much joy because they’ll be made to feel as though they need to work harder to get you to understand their point.
Instead of deflecting compliments in this way, try your best to fight your instincts and just acknowledge that person’s extension of kindness. Keep it short and sweet with a simple “Thank you, I appreciate that,” which will let the person giving you the compliment know that you’ve received their message clearly.
Next, swallow the urge to minimize your accomplishments. We are often our own biggest critics, so it can be easy to think less of your skill level or talent, but that doesn’t mean that other people aren’t genuinely impressed by our efforts. If someone has gone out of their way to express that, then try your best to enjoy that moment. Plus, allowing yourself to receive a compliment is a good way to remind yourself of all the hard work you’ve done to get to where you are today.
Once you’ve accepted the compliment, then it’s appropriate to acknowledge your team for all their work, too, if you are part of one. This is especially relevant for team leaders and managers, who should share the credit for hard-earned achievements that couldn’t have come to be without their team.