Compliments on a job well done are a good thing, right? Yet, for whatever reason, many of us struggle to accept them in a way that doesn’t involve tons of awkward fumbling and shifty eye contact.
As wonderful as praise might be, it can be a little uncomfortable when you’re on the receiving end of it. You don’t want to make it seem like you’re taking an exaggerated bow and encouraging even more people to fawn all over you. But, at the same time, you don’t want to pass off that recognition as nothing either.
So, what do you do? Take a cue from those people who are so poised and confident, they make accepting compliments look easy. Here’s how they pull it off.
1. They Say “Thank You”
I know—this first point seems obvious. We’re all trained from an early age to express gratitude when someone else says or does something nice. But, pay close attention and you’ll be surprised at how often you’re tempted to skip saying “Thank you” in favor of immediately steering the conversation to something different.
Yes, you might be breaking into a cold sweat at the very idea of having all of the attention focused on you. However, resist that urge to hurriedly jump out of that spotlight so that you can at least offer a genuine response.
What This Looks Like: “Thanks, Josh. Your comment made my day!”
2. They Don’t Argue
As good-natured and well-intentioned as they are, compliments often make us feel like attention-seeking egomaniacs. And, in an effort to demonstrate that we’re not totally in love with ourselves, we respond to praise with some sort of self-deprecating statement.
If someone praises a recent project you completed, you say it was no big deal. If someone says you knocked a presentation out of the park, you say you thought it could’ve gone better. If someone compliments your sweater, you say it looked better on the mannequin.
But, undermining other people’s comments isn’t doing you any favors—and it’s only going to make your conversational partner feel pressured to continue saying nice things about you in an attempt to pad your ego. So, soak up that recognition when it’s given and just enjoy it. You may not believe it, but you deserve it.
What This Looks Like: “Thanks so much, Susan. I worked really hard on that presentation, so it’s great to hear that you think it went well!”
3. They Avoid Shifting the Spotlight
Here’s another thing that’s tempting to do: When someone says something kind, you feel the need to bounce one right back.
Before you know it, you’re stuck in this seemingly endless game of compliment ping-pong—which sounds fun in theory, but actually isn’t. Compliments that are paid immediately after you yourself have been praised always seem disingenuous anyway, so your conversational partner likely won’t even take your acknowledgement to heart.
Make your best effort to avoid immediately shifting the spotlight to someone else. While you can (and should!) recognize when certain things were a team effort, don’t feel the need to immediately move the focus away from you.
What if you feel completely uncomfortable and are desperate for the conversation to change course? Consider asking a question, instead of spitting out some halfhearted praise of your own.
What This Looks Like: “Thank you, Max. I’m relieved everything with that project went well! Hey, how did everything go with your big client meeting yesterday afternoon?”
4. They Take it to Heart
When presented with a sincere comment, you can probably manage to at least paste on a smile, squeak out a quick, “Thank you!”, and then move on with your day. But, confident people? They take things a step further—they actually reflect on and then believe the praise that was offered.
It’s easy to think that people have ulterior motives or some sort of secret agenda when they recognize your hard work. However, have you ever stopped to think that maybe you’re getting good feedback because you really just did an awesome job?
So, don’t just hear compliments, actually listen to them and take them to heart (no, that doesn’t make you an arrogant narcissist). Not only will those kind words brighten your day, but they will also boost your confidence—meaning you’ll feel that much more comfortable the next time you’re faced with praise.
Having someone say awesome things about you to your face can be a great thing, but that doesn’t mean being on the receiving end of them is easy. It can often feel like you’re walking a fine line between seeming like a total egomaniac and being so hard on yourself that your conversational partner wants to send you away with all of the self-help books money can buy.
Fortunately, confident people can walk that fine line with ease. Adopt one (or all) of their strategies, and you’ll no longer need to cringe when presented with praise.
Photo of people talking courtesy of Hero Images/Getty images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author