Learn to Accept Compliments in Four Simple Steps

By Kristen Clark

Why do some of us have such difficulty accepting positive feedback?  If we’ve worked hard for it, we deserve it.  Still, many of us struggle terribly with expressions of praise and appreciation.  Follow these four simple steps and build confidence by learning to accept compliments.

Many of us have a hard time accepting compliments.  Some of us approach them cautiously, suspicious of ulterior motives, while others deflect them or point the credit elsewhere in an effort to exhibit modesty.  Either way, the inability to accept compliments is a sign of low self-esteem and may show others that we don’t think as highly about our actions or efforts as they do.

Improve your self-perception by following these four steps for accepting compliments with ease and grace.

1.  Understand what compliments are.  Compliments are simply expressions of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration; they are gestures of appreciation or approval and often given because of something positive someone has said or done. They are polite expressions of praise.  Complements are also forms of congratulation or encouragement.

2.  Identify how you naturally respond to compliments.  Do you blush when a compliment is offered to you?  Do you turn away or pretend you didn’t hear the compliment?  Do you brush it off as “nothing”?  Or do you contradict the compliment with examples of your character defects in unrelated areas?  Responses like these are often the result of fear – fear of appearing vain. Unfortunately, responses like these are also dangerous to our self-confidence and can perpetuate an unhealthy self-image.  Awareness of our negative responses allows us to practice the opposite.

3.  Start practicing new behavior. The next time you receive a compliment, practice the opposite of your normal response. Look the person giving you a complement in the eye, carefully listen to what they are complimenting you for, and smile.  When they are finished giving the compliment, simply say, “thank you”.  That’s all there is to it.  Practice this response in the mirror until you feel comfortable with it.  Try it out on a trusted colleague or friend.

4.  Practice giving compliments. Giving compliments is a great way to get comfortable with receiving compliments.  Offer a kind and sincere word of appreciation or encouragement to someone else.  Practice by giving a compliment to someone every day.  Compliment someone you know.  Compliment someone you don’t.  Keep it simple.  Keep it honest.  Then smile.

I once received a standing ovation for performing a song I had written during a church ceremony for 500 congregational members.  For me, that was the ultimate compliment.  Afterward, people gathered around with hugs, handshakes, and more compliments.  The best response I could offer was a smile and sincere “thank you”.  That has since become my response to all compliments.

Compliments are not a sin.  They are verbal gifts of encouragement and we are called to encourage each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  They are forms of positive reinforcement designed to build each other up.  They are affirmations and offers of praise, and we can learn to fully embrace compliments in our effort to feel good about ourselves and each other.


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