Why women find it hard to accept compliments

Understanding self-care inside out

By Delna Mistry Anand

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Published: Thu 2 Mar 2023, 7:39 PM

Comment: “Your skin looks so flawless.”

Response (from someone who really looks after her skin): “Oh it’s probably because of this new foundation I’m using.”

Comment: “Great job on the report.”

Response (from someone who worked hard on it): “It was a team effort; we’re only doing our job. And by the way, your report was brilliant”

Comment: “Have you been working out? You’re looking so slim and fit.”

Response (from someone who has been working out and trying to knock off some weight): “I haven’t lost any weight. I have miles to go!”

Sounds familiar? How many times have you responded to a compliment with an awkward, self-deprecating response? It’s funny because most people love to be noticed. People love to be acknowledged for their hard work — whether it comes to performance at work, or in finding the right dress, or looking after their appearance. But despite that, why is it that only a few know how to accept a compliment gracefully? What is it about accepting compliments that makes us so uncomfortable?

Research shows that all kinds of people, women especially, are notorious for not being able to accept one. No matter how confident women may feel in their skin, the typical reaction would include deflecting the praise, explaining themselves, or even totally ignoring it.

Though there are several situations in which humility is appreciated, there is definitely merit in being able to accept a compliment graciously. So the next time you receive an accolade and don’t know what to say, use these tips and see how it feels:

1) Avoid the compliment battle: Refrain from out-complimenting someone. You may have the urge to say, “Thank you but you are the expert, my contribution was nothing.” This kind of statement takes away from the compliment-giver.

2) Watch your non-verbal cues: Accepting praise can get awkward. Crossing your arms or rolling your eyes while saying thank you may come across as looking arrogant even if you didn’t mean it. Keep a smile on your face, and maintain eye contact.

3) Pass the praise but acknowledge it too: If it is a team effort, take a moment to accept the accolades, before you share them forward: “I’ll make sure to pass on the kind words to my team as well, who played a big role in this project.”

4) Don’t embarrass the giver: When someone genuinely compliments you, don’t insult them by responding with “I am the worst public speaker, and you actually liked my speech?”

5) Don’t fish: There is no need to milk the compliment with a “Was I really that good? What did you like the most?” in order to elicit reassurance.

6) Gratitude: The best — and only — way to receive a compliment properly is to use the magic words “Thank you” and say it with a smile. It shows you accept a person’s recognition and appreciation.

I read a beautiful line that a compliment-giver said to someone who was deflecting their kind words, “I’m going to give you your flowers, you can water them or not.” This line stayed with me. Take those flowers and water them lovingly.


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