the art of accepting a compliment

Like most creative types, I’ve received my fair share of both compliments and criticism in my life, and I’ve doled out plenty of both too. This may come as a surprise, but for a lot of people find compliments much harder to handle. (If you are one of those people, you are probably nodding vigorously.) I’ve even seen women afraid to start dressing in retro style not just because of possible criticism, but because they don’t know what to do when  someone compliments them. I think that learning how to gracefully accept a compliment is a super important life skill for anyone to have, so come along with me after the jump to learn the art of accepting a compliment.

When someone compliments you, say “thank you.”

That’s it. The end. Shortest blog post ever!

Okay, I have more to say on the topic, but honestly, if you want to stop reading here, that’s fine. You’ve gotten the most important lesson. When you get a compliment, all you have to say is “thank you.” No more, no less. This is probably all you’ll get to say if you’re getting a drive-by compliment out in public, and it’s totally fine. (People do occasionally just go “purple hair!” at me, and I usually say “thank you” even though that’s really a statement of fact and not necessarily a compliment. But I’m polite like that.)

Next level: when someone compliments you, say “thank you” followed by a fact about the thing they complimented you on.

If you’re having an actual conversation with someone, you maybe don’t want to just say “thanks” and let it sit there, especially if you’re uncomfortable with receiving compliments. By complimenting you on your hair/purse/exotic pet, your conversation partner has expressed interested in that item. Follow up your thanks with a fact about it: “Oh thank you, turquoise is my favorite color!” or “Thanks, I got it on my last trip to Narnia.” Invite further conversation about the item, or give them the opportunity to jump in with their own anecdote. However, there is one important corollary to this rule which is:

Never disagree with a compliment.

Don’t do it. Just don’t. This is definitely an instinct that people who are uncomfortable being complimented have, and honestly, it just makes everything more awkward. Even if you don’t believe that your hair looks great or that you did a good job on your presentation or that you have cute shoes, do not say so. By brushing off someone’s compliment, you make it weird for both of you, since they just tried to be nice to you and you basically just said “no, you’re wrong.” I know people worry that they’ll seem conceited if they don’t demur, but this person wouldn’t have given you a compliment if they didn’t think you deserved it! (And if they do get weird about it, then it wasn’t a real compliment in the first place and they’re the jerk who made things weird, not you.)

If it helps, you can imagine your “thank you” is just “thank you for saying that,” because it was nice of them to say so! Or, use your follow-up to change the topic or redirect the compliment – “Thank you! I really thought Annie’s speech was great!” This is not the time or place for self-deprecation. And hey – if you accept compliments enough, you might even start believing them! (The only exception to this rule is if the compliment is, in fact, factually incorrect, at which point you can say, “Oh, thanks, but Willow was the one who cast that spell!”)

Practice makes perfect.

It seriously does get easier the more you do it. There’s no way to say this without sounding super conceited, but I’m a very distinctive/colorful human, and I do get compliments and comments regularly when I’m out and about. I definitely got super flustered at first, but now it’s super easy to smile, say thank you, and add it to my bank of “good things” for the day. One other thing I do is practice from the other side. I try to give more compliments too, so I feel like I’m participating in the big ol’ karmic love fest.

Do you like getting compliments or do they embarrass you? I won’t lie, I’m a total Tinkerbell and I love the applause (applause applause)!

Note: This advice does, of course, only apply to actual legitimate compliments, not to cat-calling or other sleaze. Feel free to deal with that garbage however you prefer.

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