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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

3 Steps That'll Make Accepting Compliments a Whole Lot Easier

There are probably lots of things that come to mind when someone you work with says, “Hey, can we discuss that report you submitted this morning?” If you’re like me, your first thought might be that he is about to drop the hammer about how terrible it looks. Or if you’re dealing with a boss, you might assume she’s just going to fire you, because all news is bad news, right?

Well, unless you happened to stumble upon a company that only hires the meanest people, there will be plenty of times when your colleagues simply want to let you know you did a good job.

But if you’re like someone I know (ahem, me) and tend to fear of any form of feedback, it can be really hard to acknowledge that you actually did something well. So, to help you accept positive feedback more graciously, here are three things to keep in mind whenever someone you work with wants to talk about something you did.

1. Start by Saying Thank You

This one might seem obvious, but I’m sure you can think of a few examples when you blurted out, “Shut up, no I didn’t,” when someone just wanted to pat you on the back. I know I have plenty of times. Every time it happened, I didn’t let the other person finish his sentence before I started assuming that he disliked everything about me and my work. And because my imposter syndrome had me approaching life as if the people who hired me simply made a mistake, I assumed most people were usually not happy with the quality of my work.

If you share this bad habit of mine, there are two simple adjustments you can make to how you respond. Start by letting the other person finish his or her thought. That does wonders. Then, follow up the compliment with a simple “thanks.” By following these two steps (over and over again), you’ll eventually train yourself to stop living your life as if everyone is out to tell you about everything you’ve messed up.

2. Keep the Conversation Going

It would be really easy to hear some positive thoughts and think, “That’s awesome. I’m going to the kitchen for a cup of coffee now before this turns into a moratorium about all the things you’d like me to stop doing.” But here’s the thing—there’s plenty for you to learn from someone who wants to give you positive feedback. And unless you’re just pandering for a little ego-boosting fodder, feel free to ask for additional thoughts.

Anyone who’s willing to give you this kind of reinforcement is also making it clear that she’s taken the time to think about a project you’ve worked on. Take advantage of the time she’s given your work and ask a few follow-up questions. Find out what she liked, why, and how she thinks you could duplicate those efforts in the future.

3. Be Open About How You Prefer Feedback

At this point, you’ve probably learned that everyone in your office prefers to communicate in different ways. And that includes you. However, nobody will know what you prefer unless you open up about your triggers.

Triggers? Yes. In my case, I figured out really quickly that hearing, “Hey, can we talk,” without any other details makes me think the world is about to end. I used to keep that to myself and do my best to keep it together whenever someone said those four words to me. But what I realized is that most people will understand when you tell them a certain phrase immediately makes you panic.

After all, we’ve all had a boss early on in our careers who did communicate bad news this way and instilled this fear in us. So, do yourself a favor, speak up about how you respond to things, and stop keeping it a secret.

Accepting positive feedback’s surprisingly hard. However, as difficult as it can be to accept the fact that you did a good job, don’t overanalyze things too much. Be gracious, find out more about what went right, and take a second to be proud of the effort you put in.

Photo of work conversation courtesy of Shutterstock.