Apr 10

Just Say Thank You!-A Guide to Accepting Compliments

thank you student debt survivor

Have you ever met one of those people who can’t accept a compliment? You know, the woman who’s wearing a stunning silk Versace dress and responds to a compliment, “Oh this old thing?”. I might not be the woman in the silk dress, but I have been known to be an ungracious receiver of compliments.

I’m not sure where the fear of being haughty came from (actually, I am, see below). But the desire to be humble has caused me to be almost self-deprecating at times. Minimizing compliments, trivializing the hard work that I do, and avoiding comments about my physical appearance are all part of the weird, “game” that I used to play. Here are a few examples:

  • Woman in the Elevator- “I love your glasses, the blue on the inside makes like look like Tiffany”
    Me- “Oh, thank you, same Tiffany blue color, but I actually bought them online at Coastal Contacts for a steal of a deal, I think after shipping I paid about $10.”
    Voice in my head- She doesn’t need to know that, just say thank you.
  • Friend- “Those are Hue leggings right? Aren’t they great? I have the same pair but they look better on you”
    Me- “Yeah I got them last year at DSW, they sent me a coupon for $10 off anything and they were on sale already so I got them super cheap…”.
    Voice in my head- Why did you tell her that that matter? Just say “Yes, thanks”.
  • My Co-worker- “You’ve really been doing such a good job with your new team, there’s something about your style that really works with them. No other manager has been able to connect with them they way you do, you really, “get it”.
    Me- “Well, I’m not sure it’s me per se, I’m just doing what I can, to make things work smoothly”
    Voice in my head- Damn right, they’re a good workers, but I’ve been working really hard, I’m glad to be noticed.
  • Bouncer at a Bar- “Wow you look so young, I wouldn’t have guessed you’re 30, you must have really good genes”
    Me- “I guess so, people say I’ll appreciate it when I’m older”
    Voice in my head- Take the ID back, say thanks and walk away. Admittedly, this one always annoys me a little bit, and it happens frequently. I’m not sure why I always feel the need to say something back. I know it’s a compliment, but it doesn’t always feel that way.
  • Acquaintance- “Joey told me you work in social services, that work is so hard. You must have a heart of gold, I could never do it”
    Me- “No, most people could do the work if they wanted to, it’s not conceptually difficult, you just have to have a passion for working with people that the rest of society has decided aren’t, “worth the trouble”.
    Voice in my head- No, most people couldn’t do the work, they’d quit after the first day. Smile, say thanks and have another glass of wine, you need it after a long week saving peoples’ lives.

The polar opposite of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I’d actually minimize my accomplishments in order to avoid looking too proud. I guess some of the fear of appearing too, “showy” or, “flashy” is learned from my mother (love you mom!).

From my youth, she’s taught me to work hard, help others, and avoid being the center of attention. Accepting a compliment just about kills her. Needless to say, It’s been a long hard road to changing the way I think about compliments.

That being said, I think there’s a fine line between not accepting compliments, because you don’t want to be boastful, and not accepting compliments because you don’t think you’re, “worth” being complimented. Just to be clear I’ve never been the later. I’ve always been confident about my work, my relationships with others and (for the most part-ladies you know how this is) and my physical appearance.

So, as hard as it can be for me to receive a compliment, now I just smile, say, “thank you”, and keep my mouth shut before I make any unnecessary comments.

Can You Accept a Compliment? How did you Learn?

Image:Jon Ashcroft



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  1. It is interesting isn’t it. I find that most people actually struggle to take a compliment, but they also appreciate getting them.

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm
      • Reply

      I definitely appreciate them, I think most folks do. For some reason, some people (myself) tend to deflect them.

  2. Haha I have trouble just saying thank you and sometimes without even thinking say “oh it’s nothing” or “don’t worry about it, really.” It’s funny how it’s natural to NOT take a compliment! Definitely something I need to work on.

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:29 pm
      • Reply

      I think a lot of us do 🙂

  3. KK, this was SO me. It’s only now, in my mid-forties, that I am learning, slowly, to just say “thank you” when receiving a compliment. It’s been a long learning process, but I am starting to enjoy the boost of confidence that comes when you learn to just accept the compliments instead of taking yourself down a notch or two. Yea!!!

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:29 pm
      • Reply

      Rock those compliments! You deserve them.

  4. I was definitely this way. It actually took a series of boyfriends sitting me down at different times and scolding me that I did deserve these compliments, that I was pretty, smart, kind, etc, and people don’t just say these things to mess with my head or get into my pants.
    Mr. PoP was the third guy to have some version of the same conversation and it eventually stuck. I’m still self-deprecating at times, but I’m much better at accepting them than I used to be.

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:31 pm
      • Reply

      I’m not sure why it’s so hard. But it really is hard for some people. Like you said, we sort of wonder if there’s an ulterior motive or something. I might not be narcissistic, but I might be a little paranoid 😉

  5. Haha I’m horrible with taking compliments! I always think there is some other motive for them.

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:32 pm
      • Reply

      Totally, see my comment above to Mrs. Pops lol.

    1. Me, too!!! I cannot accept compliments with any sort of grace or lack of suspicion. I probably should work on that. Maybe we should all work on it together 🙂

  6. I can so relate as I have often struggled with this myself. I’ve always wondered if it’s because I am more introverted than extroverted. My wife pointed it out to me before we got married and now I just say thank you and move on for the most part.

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:33 pm
      • Reply

      I’ve found that once you have a, “plan” about how to, “handle” compliments it gets easier. I can be introverted in certain aspects of my life too.

  7. This is hilarious! I guess I don’t say much when people offer a compliment. Usually just a “thank you” that I try to follow with a compliment for them…

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:34 pm
      • Reply

      I always want to compliment back too. Maybe because it takes the attention off me?

  8. I do the same thing about clothes. My co-worker complimented me on my sweater yesterday and I said “Old Navy, cheap” instead of “thanks!” Its part of my introverted personality, I think.

    I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with not taking a compliment but when it comes to your work achievements, NEVER undersell yourself! What happens when its time for a promotion or raise? You’ve already downplayed your role in the improvement of your team, so how would you go about promoting it when its time for a promotion or raise? There’s nothing wrong with also crediting your team for their hard work, but be sure to take your credit as well.

    Just my two cents 🙂

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:36 pm
      • Reply

      I always want to tell people how much I paid for things. Partially because I’m proud of the deals I get, and partially so people don’t feel bad (or I perceive they might feel bad if they couldn’t afford something and want them to know they can-another weird trait of mine).

      I did think a lot about the impact of minimizing my work and my career path, so I now accept compliments at work for the exact reasons you mentioned.

  9. I can totally relate to this! I’m trying to get better at just saying “thank you”, but it’s hard 🙁

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:37 pm
      • Reply

      It shouldn’t be hard, but it totally is! I’ve found accepting compliments has gotten easier with time.

  10. I have trouble accepting some compliments, especially ones about my appearance. If I don’t think I deserve the compliment I’ll deflect it or explain it away, but if I do think I deserve it I’ll give a very peppy “Thanks!” It does bother me that I deflect some compliments.

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:38 pm
      • Reply

      Appearance comments can be pretty loaded sometimes. I think that’s why I generally dislike them (good or bad) and try to avoid making appearance compliments to others unless I know them well.

  11. Being a Leo I’ve never really had problems with saying a simple thank you when recieving a compliment. On the other hand, I’m also super shy with big groups so it’s quite the contrast!

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:39 pm
      • Reply

      Good for you! I wish it came easier to me, but I’ve learned how to handle them. I’m not a fan of big groups, but can speak in groups when needed, for work and such.

  12. I can definitely relate to this – I’m better at saying thank you, but afterward I usually do this awkward smile like “okay, enough attention on me, look away!” haha I’m learning to relax and just say “thanks that’s very kind of you.”

      • KK on April 10, 2013 at 9:42 pm
      • Reply

      Diverting attention is so much easier, right? 😉 Good for you for embracing compliments!

  13. I’m not that great at accepting compliments =/ It makes me feel uncomfortable!

      • KK on April 12, 2013 at 8:35 pm
      • Reply

      You’re not alone Holly!

    • Kayla on April 11, 2013 at 10:07 am
    • Reply

    This probably doesn’t make much sense to most people but I am a performance major (theatre and music) and I still have trouble accepting compliments about my work. I am incredibly critical about myself (though I’m learning to move through that) so when other people tell me I did “great” on something, I immediately want to fight back and tell them all of the things I did wrong even though the performance was probably fine. I have been a lot better recently though. Having professors telling me every time I do that sure helps!

      • KK on April 12, 2013 at 8:36 pm
      • Reply

      It’s hard to be a perfectionist 🙂 I think some of my, “issue” with compliments is I always want to do the best job that I can. So I see my faults more than anybody else. It must be even harder when your major and future career revolve around critiques and compliments.

  14. It depends on the compliment! But, I do love it when people tell me about the deals they are getting. Maybe it’s because I like personal finance?

      • KK on April 12, 2013 at 8:37 pm
      • Reply

      I’d love to hear about your deals. Sometimes I compliment others just to find out where they got those fabulous shoes or cute top.

  15. I know the best thing is simply to say thank you and leave it at that, but that always feels a bit strange to me! It takes a bit of tongue biting to get into the habit of graciously accepting without going on and on in a show of humility.

      • KK on April 12, 2013 at 8:38 pm
      • Reply

      I’m totally in the same boat. I think I’ve gotten better with time, but there’s still a fair share of tongue biting involved.

  16. It took me awhile to find a way to accept a compliment with a simple thank you. I am a pretty introverted gal and I used to deflect the attention by finding something to say about the person paying me the compliment! Eventually I realized that it’s not a crime to just say thanks and let it go at that lol.

      • KK on April 12, 2013 at 8:40 pm
      • Reply

      I’m not sure if I’m glad to hear that other people feel the same way I do, or if I feel bad for all of us 😉

  17. I have a hard time accepting compliments as well but like you do I say thank you and try to move the conversation on ASAP.

      • KK on April 12, 2013 at 8:42 pm
      • Reply

      Ditto. It’s even easier if you’re talking to someone who likes to talk about themselves. Then a quick, “thanks and I love your nail color” easily sidetracks them and they’ll go on and on about where they got it and how they did it and how much they paid. Center of attention avoided!

  18. I read somewhere that women typically do this while men just say thanks. Depending on the person, I usually just say thank you, but if it’s a close friend and they liked an outfit or something and I had some inside info that could save them money, I’ll the them where I got it or the coupon I used or something like that.

  19. Oh, my gosh, this is me all day. I need to work on it. A typical example from my life: “You look great!” (I roll my eyes. “Oh, thanks.” (Said sarcastically because I don’t feel like I do and just don’t know how to take it without looking like an egotistical a-hole.) I’ll start adopting the generic ‘Thank you’ and leaving out the eyerolls…or at least try to!

  20. This took years for me to do adequately, and I still feel awkward saying thank you. I’ve learned that a simple thank you goes a long way, but I usually says thanks and follow with a compliment of my own for them.

  21. I tend to get a bit too modest when complimented. I don’t know why, but its so difficult just to say thanks! Have any tips to help be more gracious?

  22. Sounds like me sometimes. I was awkward I some social situations before and didn’t actually know how to accept a compliment. Just like what Brian said. It’s so difficult just to just say “thank you”.

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