How to Graciously Accept a Compliment

After last week’s post How to Pay a Compliment, I received many comments and emails asking for a follow-up post on how to graciously receive a compliment. Many readers told me they had a hard time accepting praise.

I empathize with them, because I’ve been there.  When I used to receive compliments, I would deny, deflect, explain away, apologize or otherwise stick my foot in my mouth before it ever occurred to me to gracefully say “thank you.”  But that’s all it takes.

To graciously accept a compliment, all you need to say is “thank you.” (Then, stop talking!)

You’re being praised.  You don’t need to wow your complimenter, make them laugh or tell them they’re wrong.  If the compliment is sincerely meant, you can’t go wrong with a simple, sincere “thank you.”  If you have a history of putting your foot in your mouth at moments like these, stick to this fail-safe strategy:  say your thanks and bite your tongue!

Okay, I’ve quit embarrassing myself when receiving compliments.  What are some other gracious things I could say?

1.  Say “thank you,” and then add a bit of personal information. This one’s my favorite.  “Those are really beautiful earrings.”  “Thank you, they were a gift from my grandmother.”

2.  Say “thank you,” and share your feelings about the subject. “That dress you made for Sarah turned out really well.  “Thank you, I really enjoyed making it.”

3.  Say “thank you,” and reflect some glory back to the complimenter. “That fundraiser you worked so hard on turned out really well.”  “Thank you.  That means a lot, coming from you.”

How do I respond to an awkward compliment?

People say the strangest things.  If someone gives you a strange compliment, try a gentle (and vague) answer. “Thank you, that’s the nicest thing I’ve heard all day.”  “What a kind thing to say.”

How do I reply to an insincere or sarcastic complement?

Sadly, this happens–and there are two ways to go here.  You can give a vague response (“How kind”), or a simple “thank you.” If that seems inappropriate, you can take a tip from Anne of Green Gables, and say “Why, that almost sounds like a compliment.” If you’re going to go this direction, it is essential to use a light, funny tone.

Remember, when you’re receiving a compliment, you’re receiving the opinion of another person.  Honor that opinion. (If being praised makes you uncomfortable, stick to a simple “thank you” and your complimenter will never know.)

Sometimes we deny and deflect praise out of a sense of modesty, but what we’re really doing is telling the complimenter that their opinion is wrong.  Don’t make this mistake!  Don’t shut yourself off to praise–acknowledge it.  You and your complimenter will both be the better for it.

*** This subject makes me want to re-read Have You Filled a Bucket Today? which discusses kindness using the metaphor of a bucket.  It’s a kids’ book, but that doesn’t mean grown-ups won’t enjoy it.

image source: flickr user jlunar


  1. Mandi says:

    Wow, what a great post! I just started reading your blog and it is wonderful! I had to go back and read your post on how to give a compliment – they both give really great, straight-forward advice (but advice I’ve never been explicitly told before). Thank you.

  2. This is a great post! It took me years to learn to just accept a compliment. And I’m going to remember the Ann of Green Gables response for those occasional back-handed compliments!

  3. Clare says:

    Good post! I spent a few years trying to figure out how to graciously receive a compliment, and didn’t really get it until I looked at it from the perspective of the giver. When I took the time to pay a compliment and had it deflected or denied, I always felt a little sorry. “Thank you” was the response I liked to hear… so I started making it the response I gave.

  4. Naomi says:

    Ha! Love this post! Isn’t it funny that there are so many of us who can be so bad at receiving a compliment? Seems like it should be the easiest thing in the world, but we mess it up!

  5. Kimberly says:

    Thank you for the great and timely post… I love the response:
    “Thank you. That means a lot, coming from you.”

  6. Just Audrey says:

    You are so wise. This is such a great post and I’m definitely going to use some of these suggestions!

    P.S. Do you think you could perhaps add a Twitter button for easy sharing? This is the second article of yours that I read today that I wanted to share on Twitter.

    • Anne says:

      Audrey, thanks for the great compliment–that little birdie underneath the post allows you to post to twitter, but your comment tells me it’s not easy to use! I’ve been thinking about playing with that feature on MMD and you’ve convinced me to do it. I’ll play around with it and hopefully will find a sharing tool that’s easier to use.

  7. Oh how I wish more women would read this. Isn’t it disheartening to give a sincere compliment to only have it deflected and not graciously received? Thus…no benefit to either the giver or receiver of the compliment.
    I love the Anne of Green Gables response!! 😀

  8. Julianna Yu says:

    Hello Anne,
    Great post! Dropped by because of a link from Small Notebook.
    I have trouble with this receiving compliments and never really thought of my deflection as telling the commenter their opinion is wrong. I really appreciate your tips.

  9. Carrie says:

    I’ve always had trouble receiving compliments and praise, but several years ago I decided I was going to work on this. Not to get all metaphysical on you, but if you have trouble with “receiving”, then you may also have issues earning money. Many people believe the two things are related. So I began to let the praise kind of wash over me. Even if I had to swallow a lump in my throat. It does get easier!

    • Anne says:

      Carrie, that’s so interesting! It’s funny that we might have to “work” at getting better at receiving praise, but it’s good to know it gets easier–and maybe has more benefits than we realized!

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