How Do You Respond To Compliments?

How do you respond to a compliment? Do you wave it off, ignore it, or mumble and fumble for words?  Some people have difficulty handling compliments. Some feel awkward and undeserving, resorting to self-deprecation, with "It was nothing, really."  Some get pompous and over-congratulatory.  None of these responses are appropriate.  In this article, you’ll learn about the two ways people receive compliments as well as what to say in return.

Psychologists recognize that a common personality trait is the way people prefer to obtain validation for their efforts.  Validation styles cover a continuum ranging from internal validators to external validators. People in the middle of the continuum have a comfortable mix of styles. Those at either end of the continuum face both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to responding to compliments.

Internal Validators: They Compliment Themselves

Internal validators don't need much feedback from others, because they know, inside, when they've done well.  They know what "feels right." They have their own standards for judging what they do. Internal validators often regard compliments as nice, but unnecessary and superfluous. They may shrug off a compliment without really listening to what the other person has to say.

If an internal validator thinks she has performed poorly, no amount of praise will convince her otherwise. He will stew over the one thing that went wrong- the one thing that didn't look right. Internal validators have an advantage, however, in that they can get satisfaction from doing something well, without outside recognition.  The disadvantage is that they  may be blinded by their own internal standards and ignore what others expect and value from them. 

If you are an internal validator, ask about what others expect and listen carefully. Propose your plan and get feedback. Choose your two favorite dresses and ask your date which he likes. Get "reality checks," from people you trust. Turn off your internal dialog and listen reflectively to others’ feedback.  Become aware of others’ likes and dislikes as well as your own.  Add those criteria to your own internal checklist.

External Validators – They Want Compliments From Others

External validators thrive on compliments. They need compliments and praise to know whether they've done a good job. They are good at asking for feedback and will apply it. They want to impress others.  They can figure out what others want and deliver it.  Their weakness, however, is that, without compliments, they often feel ignored, neglected, and unappreciated.  They may even feel insulted when they’ve worked hard or put forth extra effort and compliments not forthcoming!  To them, no compliments can mean they haven't done a good job.

If you are an external validator, remember: an absense of compliments does not automatically mean your effort is unappreciated.  Sometimes others just aren't aware that you want feedback. People who neglect to compliment you may be internal validators themselves, who think compliments aren't very important.

It's fine to ask for feedback, but don't overdo it.  Set your own standards for judging the quality of your work and your style. When you meet those criteria, say to yourself, "That's good!"  Give yourself permission to know when you've done well and tell yourself so.

Tips: What to Say When Someone Compliments You

A sincere compliment is a gift and often a sign of appreciation and admiration. When you get a compliment, here are a three ways to respond:

  •  Look that person in the eye and say, "Thank you," with true gratitude.
  • Share how it feels.  Say something like, "It feels good to be appreciated," or "I'm glad I could do this."
  • Acknowledge the giver. "It means a lot that you would tell me this," or "I value your opinion."

Get the best of both worlds.  Learn to validate your actions from the inside and happily receive praise from the outside. Like yourself enough to recognize when you do something well.  Then revel in the kudos, bask in the acclaim, and smile through the accolades! 

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