Can you accept a compliment?

“I love what you’re wearing today, you look great!”

In response to the above statement, do you say: “Thanks, I love this outfit too.” Or are you more likely to say: “Really? I’ve had this for ages and don’t really like it anymore, but was in rush this morning!”

Or in the work environment, if someone has complimented the job you did on a particular project, are you the kind of person that would say: “Thank you, that means a lot, it was a lot of hard work, but I’m really happy with how it came together,” or: “No problems, it was really easy and anyone could have done it.”

If you’re one of many that fall into the latter, and have trouble accepting compliments graciously from others, you’re not only selling yourself short, but also disregarding the opinion of the person giving the compliment.

Looking at the examples above, you can see why this can be particularly detrimental in the workplace, as rather than making yourself seem invaluable, you’re actually coming across as the complete opposite.

If someone has given you a heartfelt compliment, shutting it down immediately can make them feel like their opinion is wrong or not appreciated. After all, a compliment really is a gift of words especially picked for you, so learning how to accept one graciously will not only make you feel happy, but will give the giver a buzz to see you light up with gratitude too.

Why are we so bad at accepting compliments?

What is it about accepting somebody’s kind words that we find so hard? Is it because we doubt their sincerity or is it because we don’t feel like we’re worthy?

A lot of it comes down to how we view ourselves, therefore when somebody’s kind words don’t reflect the image we see in our sometimes harshly slanted mirror, we have a tendency to immediately discount them.

For example, if someone compliments your appearance or your clothes on a day you’re feeling unattractive, chances are your initial reaction will be to brush off what they’re saying. Not because you don’t appreciate their view, but because it completely goes against the thoughts that have been subconsciously circling your in head.

Sometimes we also have a tendency to paint ourselves with a more modest brush because we worry about coming across as being overly confident or arrogant, which is particularly prevalent in females, as historically these qualities have been frowned upon by society.

Learning to say “thank you”

Choosing to say “thank you” (and meaning it) is one of them the most important lessons in self-love. We’re often our harshest critics, which is why we can’t always see what other people do, making us less aware of the snippets of beauty, intelligence and kindness we exude to the outside world on a daily basis.

So how can we accept these beautiful gifts of words?

Next time someone gives you a compliment, silence the doubt in your head and try to absorb what they’re saying. Wait a second before you respond, look into their eyes, smile and just say a simple “thank you” or try one of the following:

  • “Thanks, I appreciate that”
  • “Thank you, that’s a really lovely thing to say”
  • “Thanks! That makes me feel good”

Even if you don’t agree with the compliment, stay focused on receiving it and resist the urge to reciprocate (which more often than not has a tendency to come across as not being genuine). Not only is this a gracious way to acknowledge their words, but also what you’ll notice is an exchange of positive energy and a connection between you and the other person.

Like any habit, it can take time to change your behavior, particularly if you’re having trouble believing what the other person is saying is true. However, by observing how you react each time and being mindful of your actions, it is a habit you can learn to change.

Another powerful exercise you can try if you have a big group of people (and one that we here at Mindvalley practice!) is an exercise called The Beauty I See In You. This exercise is great for team building, to use in schools with students, or even at your next family event.

  • Put some calming music on and get everyone to stand up and spread around the room
  • Everyone is then to approach someone they wish to give a compliment to. As they’re giving the compliment, they’re to look that person in the eye while holding their hands and tell that person the beauty they see in them. For example, “The beauty I see in you is the way you’re always thinking of everyone else before yourself. You’re so warm and compassionate, I feel lucky to have you as a friend.”
  • The receiver is not allowed to return a compliment, and is only say “thank you” once they have fully absorbed the compliment
  • After the person has said “thank you” you can both move onto the next person

This exercise can initially leave you feeling a little uncomfortable, especially if they’re not used to accepting compliments, although after a few minutes, the result is incredibly powerful as you let everyone’s words wash over you, and begin to realize the beauty inside of you.

Learning how to receive a compliment graciously in an important part of strengthening the most important relationship you have – the one with yourself. It is also a way of connecting on a deeper level with those around us who wish to give us the gift of words.

If you have the opportunity, try The Beauty I See In You exercise and share your experience below as we’d love to hear the impact it’s had on you and your group.