Practice saying these five words out loud.

Practice saying these five words out loud.

I can’t remember who brought it to my attention, or why, but this year I’ve been working hard on accepting compliments graciously.

Like too many other women, deflecting compliments was a habit so ingrained I barely noticed it.

You think I did well on the project? My teammates were amazing. You heard I landed a nice writing gig? Everyone gets lucky sometimes. You like my shoes? I have terrible taste—they were practically the only ones the store had in my size!

(Okay, I have huge feet. That last one was probably true.)

But big feet aside, deflecting compliments by chalking up any success to luck, or other people, or just dismissing it entirely is disingenuous (at best) or self-sabotage (at worst). It usually doesn’t make the complimenter feel that great either: they’re trying to pay you a compliment, after all.

Practice saying these five words out loud | Modern Mrs Darcy

I’ve made a lot of progress in this area over the past year, largely because once I was aware of what I was doing, I could (usually) bite my tongue hard enough to stop. But it’s still tough.

When I was reading The Confidence Code last summer, I was thrilled to see the authors not only decry this habit, but suggest a simple, straightforward response that works for every variety of compliment. They say:

We have to find ways to take in compliments and own our accomplishments rather than relying on dismissals and assertions of luck and self-deprecation. Keep it simple if you must. When praised, reply, “Thank you. I appreciate that.” Use it. It’s surprising how odd, and how powerful, saying those five words will feel.

If you recognize that you, too, have the tendency to deflect or dismiss compliments, (and if you’re a woman, the odds are that you do) practice saying these five words out loud.

And when the time comes, use them.

P.S. How to graciously accept a compliment (a very early post on MMD). And more wisdom from The Confidence Code. 

36 comments | Comment

36 comments

  1. Sara K. says:

    I have trouble graciously accepting compliments too. Finally one day I realized that by downplaying the compliment I’m actually stealing the joy from the giver. When someone compliments you, they WANT you to feel appreciated, loved, etc. If you act like it’s no big deal, it reduces their attempt to bless you into something less.

    I have made a concerted effort to say “Thank you” to compliments in more recent years, but it is still a struggle.

  2. Yes! It took me a long time to stop being all awkward when someone complimented something about my home. Now I say things like, “thank you, our home is blessing to us!” or “thanks, I enjoyed making _____.” or “thanks, I’m so glad you enjoyed the [insert food here]” 🙂

    • Grace says:

      Exactly! I say thank you after a compliment, but then sometimes it’s just quiet afterward, and I don’t know what to do after. As you said complimenting back comes off as matching and insincere, explaining takes away from the compliment, and changing the subject feels weird too.

  3. MelissaJoy says:

    Giving and receiving compliments is a way of celebrating beauty in each other. It’s interesting to know what touches people.

  4. Allison says:

    yep – that’s me. I grew up never being complimented on anything but always seeking approval.
    my current bf has made me accept the compliments – I’m not going to lie i still sometimes eyeroll – but i always say thank you now and i believe he actually means them and is not just saying them (ie that I’m beautiful – i know i am to him). i always used to answer nooooooooooooooooooo. he asked me to stop saying that and to accept.
    btw, im 50 yo. it’s never too late to learn! 🙂

  5. Kate Frishman says:

    I have to stick with thank you, because the next words out of my mouth will explain to the giver why they are wrong. Seriously. Whether they compliment my actions, my looks, my intelligence, I will tell them that they made a mistake.
    Luckily, a few years ago someone pointed out that I had basically just told them they were stupid for complimenting me. That finally stopped me in my tracks.
    I don’t have this problem when people compliment my children to me, though. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      I get this, which is why I’ve had to work so hard to stop. Sigh. (And yes to the thing about it being different with our kids. So different.)

  6. Annie says:

    Growing up, if we didn’t accept a compliment graciously, my parents would stop and have us say, “Thank you. That makes me feel special.” Now I appreciate that practice. (Though I still don’t always practice it!)

  7. Erica M. says:

    It’s odd. When I was a kid, I recall someone saying “Well aren’t you pretty?” and my response being a blithe “I know!” It’s probably a complex combination of factors that changed me from that to struggling to genuinely believe any compliment I get. (That said, I’m sure societal conditioning played its part. Something about our society tries to tell us that the only way to be modest is to think badly of ourselves.)

    I’ve found a simple thank you is the best. It keeps me from babbling. 😛

  8. Dawn Reiss says:

    Yes. My mom gave me this advice as a teenager: “Just smile and say thank you.” It’s a great, elegant habit. And I’m not elegant at all, so at least I can do this. 🙂

  9. Karlyne says:

    I remember reading a short article (I think it was Eda Leshan) years ago about this very thing; the author was pulled up short when her niece flat-out told her, “You never let anyone say anything nice to you!” She recognized both the truth of the statement and her own rudeness. And as I was reading it, I thought, “Wow! She’s right! There’s some odd kind of modesty at work here that comes close to actual lying.” And even when the complimenter might be more flattering than truthful, the kindest, most polite thing to say is, “Thanks!”

  10. Tim says:

    Self-deprecation can get so ridiculous that it turns the other person’s well-meant compliment into a burden for all concerned. As many have said, a simple “Thanks so much” is usually all that one needs to say. I’ve practiced it over the years and it’s gotten fairly easy to say now.

    Oh, and on complimenting someone’s shoes, if they really strike me as compliment-worthy I say, “Nice kicks you got there!” It always evokes a big smile and something like “Thanks, I like these shoes/boots/mukluks a lot!”

  11. Jeannie says:

    My aunt & I were talking yesterday about our love of thrift-store shopping. When I read your post I realized I tend to answer compliments about my clothes/shoes by saying, “Thanks — Value Village.” Maybe I should just practice saying thanks rather than expecting the complimenter to share my excitement about how cheap I got it (unless it’s my aunt who’s complimenting me, of course. 🙂 )

  12. Ana says:

    I read the thing about saying “thank you” years ago and have internalized it, but I have been trying to take it further by using the “I really appreciate it” or “That’s so nice of you to say” or even (when its true) “you just made my day!” (this to a woman on the elevator at work who said I didn’t look old enough to have the job I do, I couldn’t possibly be more than 20, right!). It has the benefit of making me really take in the compliment AND gives the joy of giving back to the person making the compliment.

  13. Rebekah says:

    I’ve gotten soooo much better about this over the years, and feel like I can graciously accept a compliment now with a simple “Thanks so much!”. But … I did notice something yesterday when I finally updated my old twitter picture with a much better one. I said something like “so glad I finally have a decent twitter picture”. I was hesitant to refer to my own picture even as being “good”. Someone responded back with “no, it’s awesome” and that was easier for me to accept. Funny, huh? I think next time, I should just say what I mean, which was, “I’m so glad to finally have a good/great/awesome twitter picture!”
    Anyhow, just another form of self-deprecation, right?

    • Anne says:

      Alas, it’s so easy to be self-deprecating! But glad you found an awesome twitter picture, whether or not you’re ready to admit it out loud. 🙂

  14. Anne says:

    I so agree! I saw someone model this well when I was a teenager (late teens). If you congratulated him on an award or good performance, he would say, “Thanks, I really enjoy performing!”

  15. Vanessa says:

    I’ve always said “thank you,” but I’ve noticed the general hardship other people have with compliments. I often felt like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls when I was a kid because all the other girls were so eager to talk about themselves in a negative light, but not me. I have always been confident, maybe overly so.

  16. Last week at church I did some major deflection after a compliment. I actually went back to the woman during greeting time and said, “I should have just said THANK YOU. I appreciate it.” Because really, it just makes the complimenter uncomfortable when you won’t take the compliment. And that is rude!

  17. delicate_dream says:

    I used to accept compliments with a gracious “thank you”, but then I learned something nasty about human nature….some people give compliments disingenuously, designed to make you appear vain if you “agree” via expressed gratitude. I’ve found I have to downplay whatever “success” they are complimenting me on, as it’s a bizarre trap to try and make me look conceited over it. These nasty power struggles among people are something that have completely blindsided me in life, and only now am I seeing how they’ve negatively affected my interactions because I was not aware I was supposed to downplay myself so as to not leave someone else feeling threatened. I am quite certain this is a big reason so many women downplay and deflect compliments – we’re trained to not be competitive with one another, so it comes out in a sneaky, manipulative manner. Denying whatever is being complimented is to appease someone who feels inferior, by pretending you are beneath them. Sick, but true.

  18. delicate_dream says:

    Also….as a woman, it does get tiring to mostly get compliments on your appearance. It does begin to feel like people think you are vain and that you desire a lot of attention for your looks, or it makes you feel like there is nothing else of value about you. I’ve been making a conscious effort to compliment fellow women on things other than their appearance, although admittedly it’s hard as it’s so easy to spot cute shoes or whatever :P.

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  20. Abby says:

    I love this and am so glad you addressed it. I’ve recently started saying, “that’s kind, thank you” or “thanks, I appreciate that you noticed/said/saw that!” I had to realize that my constant deflections robbed the giver of the compliment of satisfaction, and that I could contribute to our mutual joy by graciously accepting it.

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