How to Receive a Compliment

Compliments are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can be lovely to receive. But on the other hand, they can cause anxiety because we don’t know how to react. There are many ways to receive a compliment graciously and without unnecessary awkwardness, so we, as women, can give the act of receiving a compliment the respect it deserves.

Smile and say thank you

It’s easy to brush off a compliment. You can say that your success was simply a matter of hard work or thank the person for their kindness, but claim that you’re not that good at what you do. But think about it: if someone tells you they like your shirt or thinks your writing is excellent, isn’t it nice to have someone else say that? Why should we be so quick to discredit and discount something told about us?

If anyone tells me they like my outfit, I thank them sincerely and smile. If they tell me they compliment me on a work presentation I put together, I murmur a quiet thanks and then let it go—but the tiniest part of me feels happy. I probably won’t be thinking about how many people complimented me before bedtime tonight—but maybe, just maybe, one day, when I’m struggling with my workload or feelings of imposter syndrome, my mind will drift back to yesterday’s praise and remind me why I do what I do.

Return the compliment

Returning a compliment is an acceptable alternative to accepting one. It’s also a great way to be kind and foster good relationships with others.

Just make sure you don’t lie about the compliment. If you can’t find something genuine, then it’s better to say nothing than to offer up some disingenuous “you’re so cool” reply (the other person will probably be able to tell that you’re making it up anyway). Remember: if you want people to take your compliments seriously and believe in them, you need to take your compliments seriously.

Be specific about what you like about the person or their work/outfit/performance. The more detailed and precise your response is, the more deeply felt and appreciated it will be. You could even call out something they worked hard on but didn’t necessarily get noticed for because of extenuating circumstances (like bad weather or technical difficulties). Sometimes those things go underappreciated when they’ve been essential factors in getting a job done!

Tell the person something that you genuinely appreciate about them. For example, if your friend compliments your hair, tell them how much you like their eyes or if someone praises your outfit, mention something extraordinary about theirs. They will feel good about themselves, and it will create a positive energy between you and them.

Don’t be too humble

Not everyone is good at receiving compliments. Some people are humble to a fault. As women, we’re brought up to be humble and modest. We appreciate a compliment but are quick to downplay it and explain away its reason. This can be taken too far, though, and make us look like we don’t take pride in our accomplishments or don’t trust our self-worth.

While humility is an endearing quality, it can also serve as a barrier to making new friends or attracting potential partners. It’s one of those universal truths: no one likes a braggart who thinks they’re better than everyone else, but no one wants to date or hang out with someone who never believes anything good about themselves.

Women, in particular, have been socialised from an early age to deflect praise when being praised for their looks or abilities. “My hair looks nice today? Oh no! I just got out of bed! I’m not even wearing makeup!” Or “You like this dress? It’s so old! I’ve had it forever!”

Then others feel awkward just because they’re not sure how to respond—they don’t want their reaction to come across as arrogant or conceited. But let me tell you something—there’s nothing wrong with being proud of yourself! If you’ve worked hard on something and someone recognises that, you should accept the compliment graciously rather than defer credit to someone else.

I mean, imagine if Bill Gates deflected a compliment by saying, “Oh yeah? You think Microsoft is cool? Well, that was actually my employees’ idea.”

We should all feel more comfortable accepting compliments, especially from other women.

We should all feel more comfortable accepting compliments, especially from other women. We’re not used to giving them (or receiving them), so the praise is often delivered awkwardly, and the receiver is even more awkward in response. As a woman, you’re probably used to reacting by being humble or self-deprecating, but this might make the giver feel like they’ve made you uncomfortable or embarrassed. Instead of brushing it off with “Oh, I just threw this dress on,” try saying, “Thank you! I love it, too.” It feels good to make someone else feel good by taking your compliment wisely and confidently.

Also, remember that compliments are about making others feel good about themselves—not about fishing for compliments yourself. So if someone does compliment you (from either sex), say thank you and then turn around and give one right back. You’ll make their day better as well as your own!