Dismiss them, deny them, down-play them, ignore them or change the topic—yes, receiving compliments can be very uncomfortable and awkward. But wait, aren’t compliments supposed to feel great?! The answer is… not for everyone! Research from the Harvard Business Review revealed that while 88 percent of people associate recognition with a feeling of being valued, 70 percent also associate it with embarrassment. That’s high!
Difficulty accepting compliments is often one part of a larger issue tied to self-worth. According to The Observer, a previous study revealed that people with lower self-esteem preferred to have roommates that viewed them negatively, so they wouldn't have to receive compliments -- because compliments were viewed as disingenuous. The words you speak to yourself are often the loudest, if you don’t believe great things about yourself then how are you going to accept these words from other people?
If you’re someone who struggles to simply say “thank you” when receiving a compliment, you’re not alone. I’ve worked with individuals of all ages who have struggled with this one and it’s never too late to master the art of accepting a compliment—and to believe it! Here are some tips:
Get used to complimenting yourself: It’s very easy to get caught in the cycle of negative thinking, especially if this thinking has been the norm for years. The good news is that you can retrain your brain no matter how old you are, it just takes practice. Make an intentional effort to identify what you’re proud of yourself for and what you like about yourself daily. You can expect this to be challenging at first but with practice it will become easier. If you have children, start them early!
Accepting a compliment is not bragging: Saying “thank you” when someone compliments you is different from saying “I know, I’m the best dressed person in this place.” There is a clear difference between expressing gratitude and tooting your own horn. You can accept a compliment graciously without looking arrogant.
Practice complimenting other people: Giving compliments to other people is not only intended to make the recipient feel good but can also be uplifting to the person giving the compliment. Often, you will see others struggle to accept compliments too, and that’s okay! We are all a work in progress!
Use your body language: If you want to learn to accept a compliment with confidence, make eye contact, smile if you feel happy about it and say, “thank you.” Use non-verbal cues that express to the other person you are receiving what they are saying to you.
Take some time to reflect on the compliment you received: Instead of being quick to dismiss what the other person has said to you, think about it. For example, if someone said you did a great job, think about how you did a great job.
Pause before responding: When you’ve been brushing off compliments for a long time, your response often becomes automatic. To make a change, you need some self-awareness and the ability to slow yourself down before responding. Take a few seconds and practice saying, “thank you” or “I appreciate that.”
To truly receive a compliment, you need to believe in yourself. If you want to build your self-worth and learn how to accept a compliment you can start with the list above. I also want to point out that if you’ve identified this as an area you want to work on, congratulations on your motivation to better yourself -- you are awesome! Okay, now is where you PAUSE AND SAY THANK YOU (You see what I did there 😉) and if you can’t, call A Little Counseling!