How to receive a compliment without feeling awkward about it

Sep 12, 2018

I've just returned to Wellington after a fabulous three-day conference where I facilitated a workshop in the morning and again in the afternoon.

A number of people came up to me and said it was a great workshop.

So how did I respond?

I downplayed the compliments.

Aue!

I thought I had addressed my perfectionist ways and “don’t want to appear whakahīhī” nonsense.

Like everyone else, I'm human.

I enjoy receiving compliments but accepting it with grace seems to be a challenge for me.

Apparently, it’s not just me.

In fact, it’s so common that sociolinguists have categorised the three responses to a compliment: acceptance, deflection or rejection.

Rather than humbly accept or outright reject the kind words, individuals often choose to deflect or dilute the compliment.

You may be tempted to respond with denial or self-insult.

I did.

Not once but several times.

It was easy to say, “Thank you, but you’re just saying that because you’re my friend,” or “you’re just being nice” or “Really? I felt like it could have been better.”

WTF???

I just took the gift of joy from the person giving the compliment.

So note to self - when you devalue a compliment, you send the message that you have low self-esteem, aren’t confident in your work or don’t respect the opinion of the person who gave you the praise.

My solution is to retrain myself to express mana-enhancing gratitude - and I want you to keep me accountable!

Here are five ways that I can use to accept future compliments with humility and grace.

1. Express my gratitude. Any time I receive a compliment, I will just reply with “Thank you.” It’s a simple, but powerful phrase. The person bestowing the compliment will be most receptive to a humble response. So I’m going to say something like, “Thank you, that’s very kind of you,” or “Thank you, I appreciate the compliment.”

2. Share the credit. If the compliment is in regards to a team effort, I will acknowledge the contributions of my colleagues. I will share my positive feelings and respond with something such as, “We all put in a lot of effort; thank you for acknowledging our hard work.”

3. Receive awards with my left hand. If I am honoured for a professional accomplishment in a ceremony, I will accept the plaque, trophy or certificate with my left hand. This will leave my right hand free to shake hands with the person who presented the award and those who would like to congratulate me.

4. Use appropriate body language. If I’m uncomfortable or nervous, I’m going to pay attention to my nonverbal cues and make sure I don’t give the wrong impression. I’ll try not to cross my arms or appear disinterested. Rather I’ll maintain eye contact, lean slightly forward and engage those around me with warm facial expressions. I will enjoy my moment of praise.

5. Never undermine the compliment. I will receive every compliment with unassuming gratitude and avoid phrases like, “Oh, it’s no big deal,” or “Thanks, but it was nothing.” I must remember when I downplay a compliment (and while I may feel that I’m showing humility) it actually may make the person who gave me the compliment feel personally rejected.

Do you receive compliments with grace or do what I just did?

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