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How to Respond to a Compliment: Accept It for What It Is Worth

how to respond to a compliment

Learning how to respond to a compliment means taking the good, reflecting the bad, and taking stock of how to use it to your advantage.

As a kid, I hid under the table while people sang happy birthday to me. The one who felt awkward and shy when someone noticed me. I definitely negated any compliment anyone ever gave to me. If you are like me, learn better ways for how to respond to a compliment than to negate or ignore it.

Compliments are meant to make you feel good and build your self-esteem. But, if you aren’t accepting them or deflect them, you do yourself a disservice and potentially offend the person who tries to make you feel good.

Your response to a compliment is not only important to not offend the compliment giver but also to build your self-esteem. If someone compliments you, accept it, stick it in your pocket, and feel good someone noticed how fantastic you are. [Read: 11 powerful changes to build confidence and alter your life]

How to respond to a compliment

It is natural for people like me to want to divert good attention and downplay my successes, achievements, or looks. Kind of a modesty thing, if you say, “I like your jeans,” my first instinct is to say, “Oh, these old things? They are decades out of style.”

What I should say is simple. Just thank you! So, if you are like me, then let’s change together! Allow good things to be said to us and about us by accepting them and taking them to heart instead of pushing them back.

Are all compliments complimentary?

That is not to say all compliments are meant to be complimentary. There are times when someone gives you what sounds like a compliment, but it really isn’t. Backhanded compliments are the way people build you up only to knock you down.

They are the type you need to deflect quickly and move forward. If someone uses a compliment to manipulate you or come on creepily, still take it, but send a clear message that you know what the intention is and you aren’t interested.

#1 Say thank you. Yep, it really is that easy. If someone compliments you, there is no need to be shy about it. Just accept it and say, “Thank you.” Don’t feel the need to follow it up by giving them a charity “back at ya” compliment. Simply say thank you. [Read: How to accept compliments without feeling awkward about it]

#2 Give a charity compliment. If you feel someone fishes for a compliment, then it is okay to take the compliment and give a charity one back.

For instance, if someone says, “I like your hair,” and they have done something different to theirs, they probably look for a return compliment. So, just give it to them. If that is what they need to feel better, give them what they need. It makes you both feel good. [Read: 20 funny compliments to give to your guy]

#3 Give them information about it. If someone gives you a compliment about your outfit, then give them information about where you purchased it and when you got it. But, try not to put yourself down by degrading the compliment or downplaying it by making your outfit less than fantastic. You can tell them where you got it, but you don’t have to say you bought it half off. Leave that to the imagination.

#4 Don’t deflect it. If someone gives you a compliment, don’t deflect it by picking apart what they complimented you on by showing them your faults. What do I mean by that? If someone says, “I love the color of your lipstick,” don’t say something like, “Yeah, I bought it to cover up this awful cold sore.”

It only lessens the good intention the complimenter sends you. Maybe they noticed your cold sore and wanted to downplay it. Maybe they didn’t, but who cares? Take it. It isn’t your responsibility to point out the faults in yourself. It is your job to boost yourself up.

#5 If it is backhanded give it right back. There are occasions when a compliment can be backhanded. Backhanded compliments are things like “You know you are really pretty, you could probably be a plus-sized model.”

They are compliments that on the surface are nice, but there is an undertone of hostility you are meant to feel. If someone gives you a backhanded compliment, then give it right back. Don’t let them get away with giving a compliment meant to degrade. Let them know with a snarky comeback that you know their compliment wasn’t real. [Read: How to deal with a backhanded compliment]

#6 If you aren’t interested. Now, if someone gives you a compliment, and it is because you know they are interested and you know that you are not, respond with thank you. But, try to shut it down quickly.

Compliments are nice, but if a guy comes on too strong or says something inappropriate or creepy because they want to get in your pants, say thanks, smile, and walk away. Listen to that little instinct telling you the compliment was over the top and way out of context. Find a new place to be.

#7 Turn it into a conversation. If someone compliments you, and you are interested in them, take that compliment and expand on it to make it a conversation. Sometimes a compliment is a way for a guy to make a connection and to start up a conversation.

If you are on board, find a way to tie the compliment into opening up a dialogue. For instance, if a guy says, “Hey, do you work out? You look fit.” You can start a whole conversation over the compliment about what things you like to do. Turn the compliment into a way to get to know someone. [Read: 20 revealing questions to get to know someone better]

#8 If it isn’t the compliment you are looking for. Did you ever have someone tell you, you look like someone. When they say who, they mean it to be a compliment, but you think “ouch, that person is not so pretty.”

Try to take it with dignity, realizing they meant it as a compliment. Just because you don’t think the person they think you look like is attractive, they must, or they wouldn’t be calling you ugly with a smile… at least not most people.

Compliments are funny things. Sometimes meant to make you feel good, sometimes meant to put you in your place, and sometimes their intention is not how they are heard. If someone pays you a compliment, the best way to respond is to think about why they complimented you. If sincere, use it to your advantage or shut them down completely.

The best way to respond is to take it with grace when it is meant to be kind or to give it right back if it was not. But, never try to deflect it or put yourself down to belittle the nice incoming message.

[Read: How to build self-esteem with 10 simple life challenges]

Compliments are little treats to boost you up and hold onto instead of deleting and negating them. It took me a long time to learn how to respond to a compliment. So, take the compliment, believe it, and walk away.

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Julie Keating
Julie Keating

A writer isn’t born, but created out of experiences. No lack of subject matter, my life reads more like fiction than anything that could have been imagined...

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