Taking Compliments Graciously


April 1, 2011

Do you know how to take a compliment?  I don’t know that I’m the best person to write about this in terms of giving advice.  What I do know is that I”m someone who gets uncomfortable when someone gives me a direct compliment.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the fact that the person thinks I did something noteworthy and valuable, I just feel uncomfortable about my reaction.  For me, if that person told someone else and I heard it second-hand, that would be far better.  Somehow, telling a third party makes it easier for me to respond.  Then, I can say something like, “Wow, it was really nice of John to say that about me. ”

How do you take compliments?  If you’re good at it or have any tips for me on how I can get better, let me know.  The worst thing we can do is get good feedback and not know exactly what to do with it.  So….share your best tips in the comments.


  • First, this was a well-written and great piece! Ha.

    I, too, have difficult with compliments thinking most of the time that people are going through the motions, are not being serious about it, or are being insincere. As a result, I responded aloofly or with a brush-off. I look forward to seeing what some of the tips you receive might be.

  • Not sure I’m going to be much help on this one. Usually I downplay the compliment as much as possible. Lately I’ve tried being more direct and simply saying thank you immediately, and then keeping the conversation moving away from me. Hard to do though..my own comfort zone (ouch) is to minimize what I’ve done.

  • I usually wonder what the “complimenter” REALLY wants, ‘cos usually, there’s always a catch…

  • I don’t really know what it is so difficult for people to hear first hand compliments. I too struggle with that and often down play the compliment, feel embarrassed and end up saying something equally as complimentary back to them – like I owe them one.

    A previous employee once shared this little gem with me: “The compliment that is given with sincere thoughtfulness and meaning is a compliment that should be accepted with thanks and honor”.

    I try to keep in mind that when someone takes the time to compliment me (keeping in mind that it’s not an everyday or constant occurrence because that is just creepy), that I do need to graciously say thank you, feel good about it and say thank you and then move on.

    Easier said than done for me…….

  • I finally came to grips with this issue recently.

    I too was not comfortable taking compliments. For some reason, just replying by saying, “Thank you” seemed too passive and subservient. So for me it was a matter of finding the right words to reply back that reflected confidence in agreement but not coming across as pompous or arrogant.

    So, the reply that works for me is, “how kind of you to say so.” This reply, in turn, compliments the complimenter.

  • “Thank you Sir, may I have another?” JK.

    Actually, I’ve always thought the most gracious responses I’ve heard or shared reflected true appreciation beyond a “Thank you”.

  • Trish:
    Inisghtful post, again.

    What if we turn it around and think about why we compliment others? I think Doug’s on to something. Maybe its as innocuous as wanting a smile or the satisfaction of making someone feel good. Maybe we want more of that behavior. Maybe we want to be noticed. Maybe we’re about to ask for a favor. Maybe it’s a bunch of those all jumbled together, and maybe the complimenter hasn’t really thought it through.

    Mostly, we don’t know, so we’re probably best off to just say, “Thanks!” and not try to read into it, qualify it, analyze it or interpret it. Take the A+ with a smile — it sure beats a zero!

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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