How to accept a compliment graciously

How to Accept a Compliment Graciously

A customer or colleague comes up to you and says, “That was wonderful, you did an amazing job.”  How do you respond? If you’re like most people, you struggle a bit with how to accept a compliment.

This is a skill that’s more important than most people realize — particularly since the two most common strategies people use when they receive a compliment are also among the worst.

How NOT to accept a compliment

There’s the cocky approach:

Cindy: “You did a great job on that, Stan.”

Stan: “Yeah, I know. I really am great, aren’t I?”

And then there’s the false modesty strategy:

Cindy: “You did a really nice job on that, Stan.”

Stan: “Aw, I really didn’t do much at all…”

Neither of these responses are productive, nor do they do anything to create a bond between you and the other person.

The best advice I've ever received

Early in my speaking career, I was fortunate enough to be part of a large event that included the legendary Zig Ziglar. I was speaking at the award luncheon, and he was speaking at the closing ceremony.

My keynote went well, and when it was over, a number of people came up to thank me for the inspiration. Having a traditional Canadian upbringing, I defaulted to the latter of the two poor strategies mentioned above, and responded with cringe-worthy things like, “Aw, I wish I could have done better.”

The last person who approached me was was Zig himself. (Confession: I’d never been more nervous in my life. I had always admired him, and suddenly felt like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert).

Nothing is more powerful than a simple, unqualified, "Thank you."

He congratulated me on a job well done, then put his hand on my shoulder and asked if he could give me some advice. It was this (paraphrased):

“Think about how much courage it takes for someone to come up here and say those things to you. Think about how vulnerable they have made themselves by letting you know how much you’ve impacted them.

“When you dismiss their compliments – or worse – mock them, you make people feel silly for having made the effort. Don’t ever do that. The most powerful thing you can ever say is a simple, unqualified, “Thank you.””

I took Mr. Ziglar’s words to heart, and he was, of  course, absolutely right. There really is only one appropriate way to accept a compliment, and that is with a genuine, sincere and simple “thank you.”

People will see you as both confident and gracious

 The next time someone gives you a compliment, whether it’s a customer, a colleague or a friend, try something like this:

Cindy: “You did a really great job on that, Stan.”

Stan: “Thank you Cindy, that means a lot to me.”

Short, sweet, to the point — and exactly what the complimenter wants to hear. Resist the temptation to expand or go into detail of your accomplishment. Just smile, say thank you, and move on. People will see you as both confident and gracious.

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for this article. I have struggled with this for years. When someone says thank you to me usually my response is either “not a problem” instead of “your welcome” (when doing a favor or extra work). Or after a workshop, when someone says thank you to me for the information or assistance, my response is “I do what I can” or “Well, I’m from the government and I here to help” (a comical “thank you for the compliment”). Compliments are always appreciated from participants or clients (or co-worker) but they are awkward especially since I was mainly doing my job. Maybe it is also a part of my INFJ personality… I like the thank you (feedback) but am also embarrassed by it.

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