Accepting a compliment can be both really easy, and really difficult. Loads of people don’t know how to accept a compliment.

Here is how to accept a compliment: smile and say thank you.

That’s it.

In fact, I could have written “Smile and say thank you” as the world’s shortest blog post and have left it at that. But you know me, I’m chatty, so I can’t actually just stop there.

So why do so many of us not stop at the smile and thanks? Why are we not able to just accept a compliment?

There are several reasons we find it really difficult to just accept a compliment: we are modest, or embarrassed; we don’t know what to say so we babble; very often we don’t actually believe the compliment. And it is this last one that bothers me.

Because in most situations (dodgy blokes in bars and slimy sales people excepted) compliments are genuinely what the complimenter believes. If someone tells you they like your dress, you have to take them at face value and believe they mean it, and be pleased about it. And not answer, “oh – this old thing?”

OK, you’re sat there saying “No, Rebecca, I like getting compliments on my outfits, I would never say that.”

So let’s take it up a notch. Let’s imagine they are not complimenting a thing, but they are giving you a compliment on you:

“You’re such a good cook.”

“You give amazing presentations!”

“I love the way you explain things.”

“You are a fabulous mum.”

Imagine receiving any of those, and tell me honestly, really honestly, how you would react. Or have reacted to similar, very personal compliments.

Lots of you (and by no means all – there is a whole range of influences that come in to this, one of them cultural) will have winced at the actual thought of receiving comments like that. And in a real life situation when complimented in such a way will try and brush it away. Oh I just do what my mum did – she’s the good cook. Oh no I HATE giving presentations I sound AWFUL. Really, I am just explaining them as I see it. Do you think? You wouldn’t say that if you saw the state of the house.

Deny, deflect, dismiss. These are the techniques a lot of us women use to deal with compliments. Deny, deflect, dismiss.

I challenge you today to stop.


Firstly, the person who is making the compliment believes it. They do. So by denying, deflecting or dismissing you are basically telling them they are not telling the truth. Invalidating their genuinely held opinion that they were kind (and, very often, brave) enough to share with you.

Secondly, belittling your own achievements in front of others doesn’t do you any favours. It really doesn’t. Whoever is complimenting you, be that your boss, a junior colleague or a family member, won’t think any more highly of you for not accepting the compliment. Actually, if you are unlucky it could even reflect badly on you, and we don’t want that because, as we all know, I think you are awesome.

Thirdly, denying, deflecting or dismissing does nothing for your self-confidence. How will you feel better about yourself and proud of your achievements if you refuse to believe the compliments you receive? And that little voice in your head, your inner critic, telling you not to believe them “she’s only saying it to be nice, he is only saying it because he wants something, etc etc etc” is not working with you. It is working against you. So ignore it. Ignore your gut instinct to recoil from and brush the compliment off.

So, time to practice. When you receive a compliment the easiest simplest and most polite thing to do is just smile and say thank you. Even if it seems hard at the time.

I would love to know your thoughts on this. I have a lot more to say on this subject, but this is the beginning. Baby steps, if you like.

Are you ready for the challenge?

Smile and say thank you. And stop right there.


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