How to Respond to a Compliment Without Being Awkward
Accepting praise isn't always easy, but that doesn't mean you don't deserve it.
Do compliments make you cringe? If so, you aren't alone. When Christopher Littlefield, international and TEDx speaker and expert in employee appreciation, conducted a study involving over 400 participants, nearly 70 percent reported feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable when recognizing or receiving a compliment. Why? Well, it's complicated. People who have difficulty receiving praise often experience issues with anxiety and self-esteem. Others simply lack the conversational tools needed to respond appropriately. If either scenario sounds familiar to you, then be sure to keep reading below. We've outlined a few tips on how to respond to a compliment along with a few examples of exactly what to say.
How to Respond to a Compliment Gracefully
Don't dismiss the gesture.
Accepting compliments may not come naturally to you, but you shouldn't dismiss whomever is dishing them out. We don't often think about what it's like to be the compliment giver, but think about it from their point of view. Remember that a genuine compliment typically comes from a place of appreciation or even admiration. Consider what you're being complimented on and how that action or quality may have positively impacted the person standing in front of you. And imagine how brushing aside the compliment would minimize their experience.
Some people get uncomfortable receiving compliments while others are too casual about it. If you fall into the latter category, then it's time to be more thoughtful about your responses. Compliments often require a show of appreciation. And studies show that a little humility can go a long way; being humble can increase your physical stamina, your willpower, and more.
Pay attention to your body language.
It's not just what comes out of your mouth after a compliment that you need to think about—it's also how you move. Body language is a big part of how we accept praise. There are little things you can do to show that you're engaged, such as leaning inwards, maintaining eye contact, and resisting the urge to cross your arms.
While you're at it, be mindful of your tone. Your tone of voice should be sincere and reflect happiness. Otherwise, you run the risk of coming off unappreciative.
Share the credit.
This one is particularly important in work environments. If you happen to receive a "job well done" from a client or a supervisor, be sure to respond graciously and loop in anyone else who may have contributed to your success. It's always nice to receive such a compliment, but it's even better to share the praise with everyone who deserves it just as much.
Tips for Giving Compliments
If you want to compliment someone, be specific. Vague statements can seem disingenuous, making for an awkward exchange. A sincere compliment is direct, suggesting to the other person that you're paying attention to them and what they do.
Use their name.
Using a person's name makes any conversation more meaningful, but especially so in the context of giving compliments. It's also a great way to grab attention and communicate respect. You can even use a nickname if you want to keep the conversation casual. Just make sure you don't overdo it—using someone's name too often in conversation can come off as manipulative or patronizing.
An individual compliment should never make the recipient feel uncomfortable. Consider what remarks might be appropriate or welcome, especially if it relates to the other person's physical appearance. Read the room, and make sure your "kind words" aren't cause for offense instead.
Know when to back off.
It feels good for someone to express gratitude after you pay them a compliment, but temper your expectations. As we've noted, some folks have a much harder time responding to compliments than others. If you sense any discomfort at all, then let it go and change the subject.
What Do We Usually Give Compliments About?
When it comes to compliments, science can only bring us so far—though it has helped uncover some interesting truths about these exchanges. Back in the '90s, researchers concluded that women tended to absorb compliments more positively, while men were more likely to consider them intrusive and even self-serving. These interpretations also seemed to influence how each group used compliments in the context of casual conversation.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Pragmatics, found that women were far more likely to deliver compliments in "unstructured" or casual settings—especially as it relates to physical appearance. Men delivering compliments in this same context tended to focus on things that reinforced the "values of heterosexual masculinity," like sports and performance.
Both men and women were found to give out plenty of compliments in more professional settings, though men gave and received these statements more often than their female counterparts.
So, now that we've identified when to expect compliments and what they might entail, it's time to talk about how we can respond positively and with grace. Keep reading for some examples of what to say in different settings.
How to Respond to a Compliment From Your Boss
- Thank you for recognizing my hard work!
- I worked very hard on this project, so thank you for acknowledging it!
- Lovely hearing from you. Thanks for your kind words; they always encourage me to do my best!
- Thank you. Your notes have been really helpful!
- Thank you. It really makes my day to hear that!
- Thanks. I'm so happy to hear you feel that way!
- I really put a lot of effort into that so thank you for noticing!
- Thanks. The whole team was really instrumental in getting this done!
- Thank you so much for the recognition. I couldn't have pulled it off without the rest of the team!
- I am so happy you appreciate it. Your kind words are always really motivating!
- Thank you for the encouragement and support. It really means a lot!
- Thank you for trusting me with the additional responsibilities!
- Thanks for noticing the extra effort. I put a lot into it!
- Thanks for the acknowledgment. We all worked really hard!
- Thanks for taking the time to let me know!
How to Respond to Stranger Compliments
- Thanks, that's so kind of you!
- Thanks, I really needed to hear that!
- Oh thanks, that's really sweet!
- So nice of you!
- Thank you so much. I've been feeling a little weird about it lately so that's great to hear!
- That really brightened my day!
- Wow, thank you so much!
- Thanks. I appreciate how upfront you are!
- Thank you for noticing, that's so great to hear!
- You just made my day! Thanks.
- Thank you, that's really nice of you to say!
- I appreciate you for saying that!
- That is so sweet. Thanks!
Responses That Compliment the Other Person Back
- That's amazing to hear. I also admire that quality in you!
- I think you're wonderful, too!
- Thanks. I actually think it would look even better on you!
- Appreciate it. You look amazing as well!
- Thanks so much, that means a lot coming from you!
- Right back at you!
- Thanks, I was just going to say the same to you!
- Well, we're both clearly in the complimenting mood because I think you look amazing too!
- Thanks. I appreciate that. I think that you did a really great job today too!
- Thanks. I learned from the best!
- Thank you. We actually complement each other really well!
- Thank you. I couldn't have done it without you!
How to Respond to a Flirty Compliment Online
- Thank you! It's good you can't see me because I'm blushing!
- Much appreciated. Now, how about we move this conversation to IRL?
- Tell me something I don't know.
- Yeah, I get that a lot.
- Aww, you're the sweetest!
- Wow, keep 'em coming.
- Thanks. What else do you like about me?
- Thanks. There's actually a crazy story about that…
- Thanks. You're not so bad yourself.
- I didn't catch that, can you say it again?
- You always say the right things!
- I'm going to screenshot this and frame it.
- You just can't keep your thoughts to yourself, can you?
- It's not easy to achieve this level of perfection!
- Why thank you! Now everyone around is wondering why I'm smiling like crazy at my phone.
How to Respond to Flirty Compliments in Person
- Thanks, it was on sale, so I have some extra money to buy you a drink with!
- Thank you! I wore it just for you!
- Stop thinking about me so much!
- I second that!
- You're welcome!
- It's in the genes!
- I know, right?
- I won't argue with that!
- Say it a little louder for the people in the back?
- It's so nice to meet someone with such similar taste!
- I tend to have that effect on people!
- Thank you. I've been practicing!
- Thanks, now I'm wearing the smile you gave me!
- Thanks for the close observation. Flattery will get you everywhere!
- Thank you, but if you want me to give you my phone number, you will need to do better.
Funny Responses to Compliments
- You must be wise beyond your words!
- Is that all you've got?
- Come again?
- Are you talking to me?
- I second that.
- It really is tough being this goodlooking.
- You remind me of my mom.
- As my grandmother would say, "Do better."
- Thanks, I have that effect on people!
- Looks like we have something in common.
- Thanks, dude.
- I knew I liked you!
- Such an observant person.
- Oh, I love you!
- And to think, I didn't put in much effort today!
How to Respond to Unwanted Compliments
- Thanks! My girlfriend/boyfriend thinks so too.
- I know you probably meant that as a compliment, but it's not coming off that way.
- Is there something else you wanted to talk about?
- I appreciate it, but I think we should change the subject.
- OK, I'm going to walk away now.
- Thank you, but that's a little weird.
- Let's redirect.
- I'm not really comfortable with where this is going.
- I'm sure you didn't intend to upset me, but that's how I feel after hearing this from you.
- I'm not sure if that's the compliment you think it is.
That's it for our advice on how to respond to a compliment, but be sure to check back with us soon for even more tips! You can also sign up for our newsletter so you don't miss out on what's next!