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How to Accept a Compliment: 12 Do’s and Don’ts

“You look really nice today!” a random person tells you. You feel awkward. What do you say? Do you think “No, I don’t, I look like a total mess,”? Realizing your silence is contributing to the awkwardness, you mutter “Thanks…” and then make as quick an escape as possible. But the brief encounter plays over and over in your mind on repeat. You wonder how to accept a compliment. Is there a way to do it without the well-intended words turning into an awkward moment?

Yes, there is! I’ll give you some examples of humble responses to compliments in a minute. First let’s look at how to accept a compliment without it turning into an awkward encounter.

Why Do People Give Compliments?

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If how to accept a compliment keeps you up at night, you might be wondering why people bother giving compliments in the first place?

Simply put, people give compliments to make other people feel good about themselves. Most are sincere, well-intentioned attempts at spreading happiness and joy and trying to lift other people up. They are trying to make your day a little brighter and are not trying to cause you to feel awkward.

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Why would someone not like compliments?

There are reasons that you might not like compliments or that they make you feel awkward. How you feel about yourself has a large impact on how you receive compliments, according to Inc.com and scientific studies. If what you hear conflicts with how you see or feel about yourself, you are likely to reject the compliment. It might also make you feel uncomfortable because you are trying to be humble or feel there are big expectations you might not be able to live up to.

How to Accept a Compliment- 12 Do’s and Don’ts (with examples)

There are classy, humble ways to accept compliments without it being awkward.

DO: Smile and say “Thank you”

This is the often the best and most simple response to a compliment.

Example: “That’s a really nice jacket!”

“Thanks!”

DON’T: Deny the compliment

Regardless of if the compliment lines up with how you see yourself, it makes the conversation awkward if you deny the compliment. The other person is sharing how they see you, which is often better than how we sometimes view ourselves.

Example: “That’s a really nice jacket!”

“This old thing? It’s falling apart! It looks awful, but it was the only thing clean this morning.”

DO: Stop and acknowledge the compliment

Example: “What beautiful children!”

You stop, smile at them and respond with “Thank you!”

DON’T: Ignore it

Example: “What beautiful children!”

You keep walking and pretend you didn’t hear.

DO: Give more information about it

This can help move the conversation forward, and might help you to learn more about the other person.

Example: “That was a great presentation!”

“Thank you! I spent hours researching it. I have also been practicing it in the mirror at home.”

DON’T: Attack the compliment

Example: “That was great presentation!”

“How do you know? How many presentations have you listened to? Are you some kind of a presentation judge or something?”

(Yikes! – talk about reaching out and slapping someone that’s trying to be nice!)

Related: How to Respond and Not React When You Get Mad

DO: Be mindful to keep your body language approachable

Example: “Your performance tonight sounded great!”

“Thanks!” you respond with your head up, a smile on your face and your body angled towards the speaker.

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DON’T: Try to hide and fidget

Example: “Your performance tonight sounded great!”

“It wasn’t that great. I messed up a lot.” you respond with a little shake of your head and eyes downcast. Your arms are crossed and you start to fidget.

DON’T: Respond Arrogantly

Example: “Your performance tonight sounded great!”

“Yeah, I know! I was the best one there. I totally blew it out of the water!” you respond with your chest puffed up and your nose pointed towards the air.

There are two sides of the ditch on this one – too shy and to arrogant.

DO: Match their level of enthusiasm

Since compliments are usually given in conversation, you need to match their level of enthusiasm in responding.

Example: “Your hair looks nice today,” your friend tells you mid-conversation.

“Thanks,” you respond with a smile, and then carry on the conversation.

DON’T: Respond over enthusiastically

Example: “Your hair looks nice today,” your friend tells you mid-conversation.

“Oh, my goodness! Thank you SO MUCH!” you respond, nearly jumping up and down.

DO: Relay the comment to other people involved and share the credit.

If the compliment involves other people, be sure to share it with the other people involved.

Example: “Your team did a great job today! You really nailed it.”

“Thanks! Everyone worked really hard today.”

Later to your team: “Hey everyone! Jane said we really nailed it today. Great work!”

Need more tips and examples? Check out these tips from The Power of Positivity and The Art of Manliness. (Many of those tips apply equally well to women.)

When you accept a compliment, should you return one?

In learning how to accept compliments, some advice tells you to return the favor and other advice says that you shouldn’t. It depends on the situation. You don’t want to immediately shift the spotlight or make the other person feel that your compliment is insincere. You also don’t want to one-up the compliment. A safer thing to do is ask a question that shifts the focus.

Example: “Thank you so much! I’m relieved everything went well. How did your meeting go last week?”

“That’s such a sweet compliment. Thank you. I’m very proud of my kids. How are your kids doing?”

How to Give Good Compliments

Now that we have a bit more information on how to accept a compliment, how do we go about giving compliments in return?

Good compliments are genuine, sincere, and observant. You can give good compliments to people that you know and to strangers. The more specific they are, the better. You want to be sure that what you say is a reflection of how you really feel and that you have no ulterior motives. (People have gut feelings about insincere compliments. ) Compliments about physical appearance are nice but can make some people uncomfortable, but having empathy with your compliments is always a winning strategy.

To make the other person feel more at ease about accepting your compliment, you can gracefully follow it up with a question. For example, “I love those shoes. They look so stylish and comfortable. Where did you get them?” Or “It was really brave of you to speak up for what you thought was right. How did you find the courage to do it?”

How to Accept a Compliment: Replies for when you don’t know what to say

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While “canned” replies to compliments may not be the best tailored for every situation, sometimes it’s nice to have a few phrases on hand for when you don’t know what to say. Here are some replies to help you gracefully accept a compliment.

  • “Thanks!”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “Thanks. That means a lot coming from you.”
  • “Thank you. It makes my day to hear that.”
  • “I appreciate that!”
  • “Oh wow! Thanks. Can you tell me what was good about it?” (Good for getting feedback on a project or performance)
  • “That’s really sweet. Thank you.”
  • “I put a lot of thought into it. I’m glad you like it.”
  • “I’d love to take all the credit, but * insert name * really helped me with this.”
  • “Thank you, I’m really grateful for the person/people that helped. I had great support.”

(If the compliment is in a romantic context, you can see some great responses and tips here. )

What do you say or do when someone does not accept a compliment you gave them?

Their response is most likely rooted in how they feel about themselves. They may have self-esteem issues, or they may be having a bad day, or need some encouragement. See if you can sneak the compliment into the conversation or ask a question afterward. You could also word the compliment so that it’s more about you. For example “I wish my fashion taste was as good as yours. Can you give me any tips?” Acknowledge their feelings, but also be firm about yours.

Wiki How has some great in-depth tips on how to handle this type of situation.

Related: How to be less socially awkward: 10 Tips

How to Choose Love over Hate

The last thing you need to know about how to accept a compliment

Learning how to accept a compliment can be a bit awkward at first. If you are not used to hearing good things about yourself or if the compliment goes against your self-image, your first reaction might be to deny it. The best, simplest way to accept a compliment is to smile and simply say “Thank you.” What is the best compliment that you ever received? Leave me a comment below!

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