Accepting Compliments: Don’t do that. Do this instead.

This article is part of our Don’t do that. Do this instead series.*

Compliments are lovely.  We all like to hear nice things about ourselves, don’t we?

While most of us like hearing compliments, not many of us feel comfortable receiving them.

Justify a compliment: DON’T DO THAT

Instead of being left with a sense of accomplishment when someone pays us a compliment we find ourselves slightly embarrassed; we stumble for words, look at our feet and probably mutter something self-deprecating.

Often the conversations go something like this:

‘Job well done!’ …‘Oh, I was just doing my job.’

‘You look gorgeous!’ …‘Oh, I, um…in this old thing?’

‘Great presentation.’ …‘Oh, anyone could have done that.’

Not only does this leave us feeling slightly embarrassed but it also leaves the person giving the compliment feeling awkward and takes away from their good intentions. When we make excuses and try to rationalize the compliment we run the risk of turning it into a much bigger ‘event’ than the other person intended.

DO THIS INSTEAD: Say ‘thank you’

There is, however, a lovely, simple and gracious way to deal with the situation: say ‘thank you’.  That’s all you have to do.  You don’t have to expound, you don’t have to justify why, you just need to say thank you.

‘Job well done!’ …‘Thank you.’

‘You look gorgeous!’ …‘Thank you.’

‘Great presentation.’ …‘Thank you.’

Keep in mind that people don’t have to say anything; so when they pay you a compliment, pay them the compliment of accepting it graciously.


You’re now asking yourself if it’s really that easy, aren’t you? Well, I gave this advice to my lovely friend Karen, and here’s what she told someone else about our conversation…and in doing so, she paid me a compliment (thank you, Karen):

“I once mentioned to Hilary that I found it very difficult to accept compliments. Every time anyone said something positive to me, about me I found myself denying it, justifying myself or making a joke. Which inevitably ruined the intent of the comment and sometimes made things awkward. Hilary looked at me and said, ‘All you have to do is say thank you’. Simple, obvious, brilliant. I trusted Hilary and tried it out, it works. In one sentence she solved what was becoming a regular stumbling block in my professional and personal interactions.”

An especially big thank you to my mum, who taught it to me in the first place.

Use these two simple words and you will be thought of as gracious, polished and professional.


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Your Stories
We’ve all fallen foul of rude or thoughtless behaviour…sometimes it’s even we who have been guilty of it.

If you have a story you’d like to share, please feel free to send me a note and I’ll include it here.


*What is this series about?
Have you ever had your relationship with a colleague, client or boss change suddenly – and not for the better? Yet you’ve not been able to put your finger on why.

Small actions. Big Impact.
I’ve always maintained that some of the smallest things we do often have the biggest impact on how our professionalism is viewed.  In this series, “Don’t do that. Do this instead.”, I help you avoid the tiny (and not so tiny) things that can trip you up and place barriers between you and your success.

Small bites for easy digestion.
Each entry is intended to cover one small piece of a larger topic. However, even though seemingly small, each and every action has a big impact.












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