Compliments are supposed to be a source of positivity. And yet many people loathe them because they have no idea how to respond to them in a way that’s not cringe-worthy. While accepting them can make you feel arrogant, denying them often makes the giver feel uncomfortable. So what are you supposed to do? Glad you asked! Here’s how to respond to a compliment without being awkward.
- Don’t deny the compliment. The first step in responding to a compliment gracefully, without being awkward, is to accept it. For many people, the first reaction is to deny it. That might be because loving yourself is seen as “arrogant”. Or because many people genuinely struggle to see the good in themselves. But whatever your reasons, try to accept the compliment, even if your first instinct is to say it’s not true. Denying a compliment can also be insulting to the person giving it to you, depending on what’s being said. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but accepting compliments gets easier the more you do it.
- Don’t put yourself down. Many people take denying a compliment one step further and actually put themselves down. Person A: “You look beautiful today.” Person B: “Oh my god, I look disgusting today, stop.” See how easy it is to do? This is the opposite of being graceful and can really make the person giving you the compliment feel awkward. Whether you feel those things about yourself or not, make a decision not to voice them out loud.
- Say thank you. Rather than denying the compliment or putting yourself down, simply say thank you. Though some people feel like they look arrogant if they say thank you, this is actually the single most appropriate way to respond to a compliment. Not a sarcastic thank you. Not a timid mumbling thank you. Just a clear thank you like you mean it. And if you can, smile!
- Comment on how the compliment made you feel. All you need to say is thank you. But if you feel like there’s an awkward silence following that, you could always comment on how the compliment made you feel. For example, “That’s such a relief that you like this dress! I was worried it wasn’t going to be dressy enough.” Or, “I really appreciate you saying that.”
- Talk about the subject of the compliment. You could also talk about the subject of the compliment after you’ve said thank you. If someone says they love the way your hair looks, tell them about the new hairdresser you’ve been seeing. Or if they loved your work presentation, tell them about the approach you decided to use, or how much work you put into it. The fact that they’re complimenting it often means that they’d like to know more about it, so don’t feel bad about giving the subject some airtime.
- Give a compliment back. Sometimes, you might want to compliment the person back after you’ve accepted the compliment. You don’t have to give a compliment just because you’ve received one, so only praise that person if you genuinely feel what you’re saying. If you really were going to comment on how much you love their makeup, regardless of the fact that they’ve just complimented you, then go ahead and do it!
- Don’t one-up the person who complimented you. It’s okay to compliment someone after they’ve complimented you, but don’t one-up them. In other words, don’t volley back a compliment just so you seem like the nicer person in the exchange. This comes off as extremely ingenuine. As a rule of thumb, only give a compliment back if you genuinely feel like it’s true, and try to stop at one.
- Maintain positive body language. Your body language can make things awkward without you even realizing it. Crossing your arms and avoiding eye contact can make you seem disinterested in the compliment, or even uncomfortable because of it. Instead, try to make eye contact and lean slightly forward as you accept it.
- Resist fishing for more compliments. Sometimes, once you’ve received one compliment, you might feel tempted to fish for another one. A lot of people do this by putting their selves down: “You might like this dress, but how ugly are these shoes?!” Again, this comes off as pretty insincere and can make things awkward. Also asking, “Really?” multiple times after someone compliments you, enticing them to say it again, can make them feel uncomfortable.