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Normally, people have a hard time acknowledging compliments because they don’t want to seem vain or full of themselves. But as with giving compliments, there is also an art to receiving them graciously.

Impostor Syndrome & Why it is Hard to Accept Compliments

It is normal to hear people downgrade or downplay the accolades they receive. This is what is commonly known as impostor syndrome or the feeling that you do not deserve to be rewarded and acknowledged for your accomplishments.

It is the belief or paranoia that you think that anytime soon, people will find out that you are nothing but an impostor in your position. That you are just a fake.

Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with feeling this way. Most of us want to be better at whatever we are doing and don’t want to get complacent. People always strive to improve and excel, so it is only natural to fight the urge to celebrate to keep focused.

We can easily forget that compliments are a good thing. A positive thing. A celebration in itself. Accepting a compliment does not demean or cancel your work. It’s an acknowledgment of all your hard work and you should let yourself and other people appreciate that.

We should be gracious and accept compliments in stride. Think nothing more of it than just simple compliments. Smile. Be nice and be thankful. Simple as it may sound, for some people, this could be quite challenging.

How Men Should Respond to Compliments

1. Keep It Simple

Overthinking the compliment always messes up your response. A simple “thank you” will always suffice whatever the situation may be. Men who suffer from impostor syndrome always follow “thank you” with a “but”. Examples:

  • “Thank you. But I could have done better”
  • “Thanks. But it wasn’t really a big deal”

Avoid doing this to yourself. Practice just keeping it simple and just say “Thank You” and nothing else. Before you add anything else, catch and stop yourself from saying anything else.

Walk away, shake hands, smile, do anything but say nothing else. Do this whenever you are on the receiving end of a compliment until you train your brain enough to perceive this as normal. Or until you have your impulses under enough control.

2. Stop Downplaying Yourself

If you ever do say something after a compliment, try to avoid statements that could downgrade the compliment. “Oh, it was nothing” is probably the best example of downplaying/downgrading a compliment.

If it was truly nothing, you wouldn’t receive compliments in the first place. This is a normal reaction, as we think this is the proper and modest way to react. Instead, allow yourself to celebrate and feel proud of the moment.

Rejecting compliments or downplaying them can also make you seem thirsty for more compliments or even worse, insecure. Allow yourself these moments.

Small victories are crucial for your mental health. Enjoy these moments. The key is to understand that they are just that - moments. They pass.

Deflecting or rejecting compliments can be a symptom of low self-esteem. You struggle to accept positive reinforcement because it contradicts with your negative perception of yourself.

Simply, allow yourself to feel good and be proud momentarily. Say “thank you” and nothing else, then carry on with your day.

3. Share Your Victories And Give Due Credit

Especially, in a team setting, it is best that you share your victories. Accept the compliment, but accept it for everyone involved and make sure you mention them as you say your “thank you’s”.

Acknowledge everyone’s contribution. It will only make the compliment more rewarding. Say something like: “Thank you, but none of this will be possible without the hard work of everyone in the team”.

Drop names if you can. It’s never good to take all the credit for something that is a group effort. Even if it is not a “group effort”, thank the people around you. You are only as good as the people around you.

You may be aware of it or not, but your work colleagues passively affect the work you put out. And besides, if compliments hit you like a ton of bricks, it is probably best to share the load of that.

How Women Should Respond to Compliments

1. Return Compliments, Genuinely

As strong as the urge to downplay your compliments, you might also have a strong urge to return the compliment. This is all well and good, but compliments are only effective if they are sincere and genuine.

Don’t pay compliments just for the sake of repaying them.

For example, resist saying:

  • Thanks but you deserve it more.
  • Thanks but you could’ve done a much better job than me.

Instead of redirecting the compliments given to you, try saying this instead: “Thanks, I think you are doing a great job as well”. Enjoy the moment together rather than passing it back to the person that gave you the compliment in the first place.

2. React Right Away To The Initial Compliment

Don’t ask to repeat the compliment. Do not ask for an in-depth explanation of why you are being complimented. As soon as you are complimented, say “Thank you”

Asking someone to repeat or explain the compliment might make you seem you are enjoying it too much. You may appear vain and full of yourself.

Again, reciprocate with a clear sign of appreciation and that’s it. The first rule always applies, keep it simple.

3. Share the Credit

Women are complimented more often than men. That’s just a part of life, but it doesn’t mean women can’t share the spotlight when warranted. If you receive a compliment and you feel other people need to be acknowledged with you, then don’t wait for others to compliment these people. Share the credit yourself with statements like:

  • It is great to hear that! But the whole team responsible for this project. If you have time, it would make their day to hear you appreciate their hard work.
  • I would love to take credit, but Sarah should share the credit for this. Your feedback will be shared with her when I see her today.
  • Thank you for appreciating everyone on our team’s hard work these last few weeks. Your feedback will mean the world to them.
  • None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of my team, I am grateful that I get to work with talented people such as yourselves.

It All Boils Down To Proper Etiquette

When you receive a compliment, the right thing to do is simply say “Thank You”. Do not be boastful. Be accommodating and kind. Enjoy and share the moment with others.

Remember that everyone is trying their best and at this moment, it is only you that has been put into the spotlight and acknowledged for your hard work. Be sensitive.

It is like you singing happy birthday at your own party. Imagine how awkward that would be for everyone present.

If you are still struggling with what to say when you receive a compliment. Here are a few examples of how to say thank you graciously:

  • Thank you, it makes all the difference to hear that.
  • Thank you for noticing, I really put a lot of thought and effort into this.
  • Thank you, I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know how you feel.
  • Thank you, I am glad that you feel that way!
  • Thank you, It makes it all worth it to hear you say that
  • Thank you, this makes me want to do even better
  • Thank you, rest assured I will strive to continue doing a good job

Being a man or a woman shouldn’t matter if you follow the proper etiquette to responding to compliments. As long as you take note of these tips, you’ll sail through life being able to give and take compliments as graciously as possible.

Now to learn how you can use compliments as icebreakers on a date, at a party, or any other event, this guide to effective conversation starters should help turn you into a better conversationalist.

✍️  October 30, 2020

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