We set high expectations for ourselves and strive to meet those expectations, but when someone notices and offers us a well-earned compliment, many of us in a quavering voice quickly launch into a stream of self-deprecating comments, denials, and deflections. Perhaps you can empathize, because someone simply giving you a compliment disarms and dissembles you so completely that you immediately shift the focus, talk down, or cast off the compliment entirely.
Answering a compliment with anything other than gratitude and a sincere thank you has only one lasting effect—it creates awkwardness for both the person extending the compliment and you. Failing to acknowledge the gift of that compliment can help you be seen as ungrateful, lacking confidence, and worst of all unappreciative. From your vantage point, how confident can you really feel about yourself when you second-guess, deflect, or deny what you’ve done well to the point where you can’t even concede that you were able to achieve something?
Here are four surefire ways that you can own a compliment the next time someone is gracious enough to offer one.
Let Your Body Language Speak For You
A smile and a nod go a long way in conveying that you appreciate what someone is saying to you. Before even your words express your sense of gratitude, your body language can be your best ally. Smiling and looking the other person directly in the eye not only indicates agreement, but it also goes a long way in building and reinforcing the trust and connection between you and the other person. If you’re feeling comfortable in your own skin, you’ll be less likely to walk down the road of shifting the focus, deflecting, or not accepting the compliment as it is intended and given.
Simply Say Thank You
You can simply express your gratitude by saying thank you, and then either adding a short personal anecdote about the thing the person complimented, or how you feel about what they complimented. A thank you can express so much in so few words, it’s really easy to learn to say, and it can be practiced beforehand. Saying thank you to others and watching how they respond can really help you become comfortable with saying thank you to others because you understand firsthand how powerful those words really are.
Don’t Trade Compliments
When someone gives you a compliment, your first feeling might be to offer him or her a compliment in exchange. No matter how well-intended and honest your compliment may be, in truth this is really another form of deflecting the focus from you and the compliment you were given. Trading compliments isn’t going to help you learn to accept a compliment any better. If you truly feel a compliment is merited for something they’ve done, save it for a time where they have the chance to be the focus and shine.
Be Humble Not Boastful
Sometimes we lean toward diminishing what we contributed or what we’ve done when others pay us a compliment because we’ve been taught that focusing on our accomplishments is boastful. There is a real difference in boasting and being overly focused on what you do, and being humble and accepting praise for what you rightly have earned. Knowing the difference will help you own a compliment without deflecting or attributing the good expressed to someone or something else. Not recognizing your abilities and strengths in an honest way—especially when someone else does—isn’t strength of character. It is false modesty. Being humble is about knowing what you know and what you don’t, and it doesn’t preclude being pleased that someone else notices.
The next time someone takes the time to offer you a compliment, I hope you own it with all the grace and gratitude you have. It will be the best thing you can do for yourself and the other person.