How To Respond To A Compliment Without Being Awkward In 8 Steps

Everyone likes receiving compliments. They have the ability to boost a person’s self-esteem. No matter what the occasion, compliments can help diffuse tension and create a strong bond between people. However, not many people understand how to respond to a compliment. 

Compliments should be given generously and received generously. Some people are great at giving compliments and poor at receiving them.

It’s not uncommon for people to lack the right words to respond to a compliment. But there are other ways to respond to them aside from saying the usual “thanks” or “that’s nice of you.” Let’s take a look at some top tips on how to respond to a compliment. 

How To Respond To A Compliment Graciously

Giving or receiving compliments can sometimes cause a level of stress or embarrassment. However, there is a way that you can graciously respond to them. Here’s how:

1. Say Thank You

Saying thank you is always the best place to begin when it comes to graciously accepting a compliment. Say a colleague comes up to you and compliments you for an excellent presentation that you gave, or they compliment you for the outfit you are wearing that day. 

You can smile and simply respond to a compliment with a thank you. When someone compliments you for your professional skills or for looking nice, give them a broad smile and say, “Thank you very much.” 

When saying thank you, it is important to look the person in the eye who has given you the compliment. When you do this it adds more depth to your response and lets you see how the giver of the compliment also reacts. 

2. Always Be Sincere 

When you receive a compliment, you should reply genuinely. This makes the recipient feel special, as they can see that you’ve treasured the compliment. 

responding to a compliment

3. Be Mindful Of Your Non-verbal Behavior 

Be conscious of your body language when you receive a compliment. Avoid crossing your arms, downcast eyes, or overly casual behaviors that may communicate disinterest. 

When receiving a compliment slightly lean forward, maintain eye contact with the giver, and smile as you say, “thank you.” 

4. Reply Confidently When Complimented

When you reply to a compliment, do it confidently. Don’t raise your voice or say anything that is  unclear or awkward, as you may make the giver regret complimenting you. 

One way to maintain your composure and avoid panicking is to avoid reading too much into the compliment.

If you say thank you to the complement, you should emphasize the words and if it is an appropriate setting maybe give the receiver a handshake. You could also mention their name, which is a great way to make the person feel special or unique. 

6. Keep The Conversation Going 

Oftentimes, people respond to compliments with a thank you and then allow an awkward silence to take over. They do this out of fear that they may sound as if they’re overcompensating or come across as sounding awkward. 

Yet, in most situations, the compliment can be used as a conversation starter or to keep a conversation going. For example, if the person compliments your shoes, you can reply by saying “thank you.” After that, you can proceed with something related to the compliment, for instance, “I bought them on Black Friday at an incredible discount.” It’s okay to feel shy when proceeding with the conversation but it’s better than awkward silence. 

7. Avoid Compliment Battles 

Some people respond to compliments by downplaying them or trying to out-compliment the other person. However, it is important to understand that, it sounds awkward. Don’t say, “Thank you but my input wasn’t as valuable as yours.” Instead, embrace the compliment and be grateful for the recognition. 

When you downplay a compliment, it disrupts the connection between you and the giver of the compliment, as it negates their opinions or feelings. For example, “You look nice today. Is that a new suit you’re wearing?” responding by saying “oh this old thing? I wear it all the time.” Or, “I could have done better; I messed up several times.” These types of responses negate the compliment. 

8. Don’t Milk The Compliment 

To graciously reply to a compliment, avoid saying, “Gosh, really?” “Are you sure?” or, “What makes you think that way?” These types of responses come across, as if you are trying to milk the compliment and can make a person come across as self obsessed.  

responding to a compliment

How Do You Respond When Someone Says You’re Beautiful?

When responding to someone saying that you are beautiful, the same strategies mentioned above still apply. Simply maintain eye contact, say “thank you,” and move on. Try not to overthink the compliment. 

Perhaps you don’t feel beautiful at that time and suspect that there’s an ulterior motive at play. But the giver of the complement may actually find you to be beautiful. You can still say, “thank you, you’ve made my day by saying that,” “That means a lot coming from you,” or you can joke with them by saying “Thank you, at least someone other than my parents thinks so.” 

Remember to maintain eye contact, be mindful of your tone of voice and body language. 

How Do You Respond To An Unwanted Compliment?

Most people love to receive compliments that boost their self-esteem. But there are some compliments that can be unwanted. In these situations you can respond in the following ways: 

Give Them A Startled Look

If the compliment is unwanted, you can give the person a slightly startled look, which suggests that the comment wasn’t appropriate. Eventually, this will make them feel awkward and leave. 

Your facial expression could also communicate your distaste, and in this situation hopefully they would apologize or leave the conversation. 

Simply Ignore It 

If you receive an unwanted compliment from someone who is a complete stranger, then don’t feel pressure that you have to respond to them.

In this situation, you can simply ignore them, not engage and go about your business. There is a likelihood that the person may throw another slur at you in an attempt to get a reaction. However, if you ignore them, they will go away. 

Quickly Change The Subject 

When dealing with an unwanted compliment, changing the subject is another great way to combat the unwanted attention. Maybe a coworker has made an inappropriate comment about your looks and because you are at work you’re scared of getting confrontational, you can instead change the subject. 

The new conversation could flow from the original compliment or be completely different. For example, if someone compliments you by saying that they are fond of the dress you are wearing, you could say that it’s an old dress and you haven’t bought new clothes in a while because you’re planning for a trip to Europe and then proceed to talk about Europe. Or, you could even say, “Thanks, do you know a good place for sushi near here? I’m thinking of having some for lunch today” It may not silence the complimenter for good, but it’s an excellent way to divert unwanted attention. 

Throw The Person Off-Guard 

One way to throw someone off is to compliment them so randomly and unexpectedly that it throws them off guard. Maybe someone likes bugging you all the time, telling you to smile. 

You can throw them off by telling them that you’re “mourning for a loved one.” This reply could throw them off long enough for you to walk away from the unwanted conversation. 

How To Respond To A Compliment

Turn It On Them 

When confronted with an unwanted compliment, you can instead turn the comment on that person using sarcasm. This response makes the person aware of what they’re really doing and demotivates them from saying more. 

For example, if an egocentric male tells you that you’re beautiful, you can tell them, “Oh, you’re pretty too. Do guys hit on you a lot?” 

Funny And Clever Responses To Compliments

Aside from saying ‘thank you,’ you can take it a notch higher by responding in a clever or funny way. You may say something like:

  • Thanks, I woke up like this. 
  • You know what, I like you.
  • This is actually the result of me not taking a bath for weeks. 
  • Well, you’re not so bad yourself. 
  • Oh! Such discerning eyes! 
  • Don’t worry, you’ll get there eventually. 
  • Much obliged (another way of saying thanks)
  • So, I’ve been told. 
  • Is that the best you’ve got? 
  • Look who’s talking. 
  • Thanks, I sacrificed many lives for this. 
  • It’s my duty to spread absolute beauty around me. 
  • Thank you, I know, right? Aren’t these shoes awesome? 
  • Gosh thanks, would you like to borrow it for a second? 
  • I know, I wish I could say the same about you. 

The thing with compliments is that we can often tell if someone is genuine or if they have an ulterior motive. If you suspect foul play, you can either give a clever compliment or try to be funny. 

For instance, if someone says you look nice but it doesn’t seem like they are being genuine, you may say, “you must be looking at a mirror,” or you can say, “finally, I thought my mother was the only one that saw me that way.” 

  • You’re wise beyond your years. 
  • Are you always so honest? 
  • My grandma tells me to be more original 
  • I have that effect on people 
  • Well, a tiny botulinum toxin can work miracles 
  • You’re about three levels above me in terms of IQ 

Some compliments can be annoying. For instance, if someone says you haven’t changed a bit, and you can detect that they are being judgmental about you, you could either change the subject or say something clever like “I’ve been working for the CIA,” or you could say “you too.” If someone makes a sarcastic comment about an old suit you are wearing, you could reply, “I borrowed it from Dracula,” or “from the museum.” 

At times, someone may give you a compliment about an intrinsic quality that you don’t have. They may say, “The boss loved your work again, you are always so lucky.” This comment implies that it wasn’t hard work that led to your accomplishment. 

So, rather than replying to the compliment in a rude or aggressive way, you can instead say something like, “I wouldn’t necessarily call it lucky, my success on this project was really due to hard work, rather than luck.” 

How To Deal With Backhanded Compliments 

Backhanded compliments are insincere compliments that may sound hurtful or insulting. When you get these types of compliments, you need to remember that it isn’t about you. More likely, the person that has given the compliment has previously experienced insecurity or rejection. 

So, instead of becoming bitter, you could understand that the compliment is not about you and look for ways to make the giver stop with what they are saying. 

For example, someone might say, “I wish I were as calm as you are amidst all of this clutter.” Such a compliment may be the person’s rude way of attacking how you live. In this situation, you could say something like, “I know that you may have meant that as a compliment, but it didn’t really sound like one. Is there something you’d like to say to me?” This type of response helps you address the backhand compliment and engage that person in an open discussion that will expose the real issue that brought about the compliment. 

responding to compliments

Why Are We So Bad At Accepting Compliments?

There are a variety of reasons why so many of us struggle to accept a compliment. Some people are reluctant to reply to a compliment because they feel like they’ll be taking credit for something that they are not responsible for. Others feel that accepting the comment will make them appear big-headed or vain, or some people may simply be suspicious of flattery. 

In some cultures, humility is treasured and accepting a compliment may be perceived as having a superior sense of being better than everybody else. If you’ve had the chance to interact with people from different cultures, you may have noticed different comfort levels when giving or receiving compliments across cultures and nationalities. 

Psychologists say that it can be difficult to accept a compliment because of three primary factors. These include; low self-esteem, cognitive dissonance and high expectations. 

People that have low self-esteem, often don’t feel that they deserve the compliment or they think that the person giving the compliment isn’t being honest with them.  

Cognitive dissonance is what psychologists term as inconsistency. People that have cognitive dissonance tend to feel threatened by a compliment because their self-image doesn’t line up with the words they are hearing. Let’s say for example, a coworker says, “you’re smart, and you always know what to say in a report.” If you don’t view yourself as a smart and competent person, you may find this compliment unsettling. 

Being a person with high expectations can also make you uncomfortable when you get given a compliment. Studies show that people with self-worth issues tend to set the bar low. Therefore, when someone meets their expectations, they get surprised. 

High expectations may make self doubt creep in and make you feel anxious. Take for example, your boss that communicates that they are expecting you to excel in the next project. This can result in putting a lot of pressure on you. For instance, your boss can say, “We gave you that project because we know that you have the right skill-set to complete it in time.” 

If you struggle with accepting compliments, remember that the giver may have taken time and effort to provide that feedback to you. So, instead of downplaying or overreacting to the compliment, simply say, “thank you, that means alot to me” 

If you feel like you are receiving a compliment for something that was a team effort, you can say “thank you” and later on acknowledge that it was a team effort. You could say something like, “Thank you for acknowledging that, as a team we all worked really hard on this project”.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to responding to a compliment, always aim to accept the compliment gracefully. If you struggle with accepting compliments, utilize the strategies laid out in this article and with practice, you may find that you will become more accepting of compliments. 

Remember that even if the compliment makes you feel a little awkward, your best response is to show a little gratitude. Resist the urge to criticize yourself and simply say “thank you” with a smile.

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