There Are Only Two Ways People Feel About Compliments — What Your Preference Says About You

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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 and offering responses like, "It was nothing, really." Some get pompous and over-congratulatory.

Psychologists recognize that there are two specific ways people prefer to obtain validation for their efforts — meaning how they prefer to receive compliments.

While there are a number of validation styles, they cover a continuum ranging from internal to external validation.

RELATED: What It Means When Someone Gives You A Backhanded Compliment (And How To Respond)

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 receiving and responding to compliments.

What the Way You Feel About Compliments Says About You

Internal validators prefer to 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.

What to do if you are an internal validator:

  • Ask about what others expect and listen carefully.
  • Propose your plan and get feedback.
  • 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.

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External Validators prefer to receive 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.

What to do if you are an internal validator:

  • Remember that 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 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.

RELATED: What Men Really Expect You To Do When They Give You A Compliment (And Why It's Absurd)

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!

RELATED: What Men Are Thinking When They Shower You With Compliments Early On

Dr, Judith E. Pearson is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Master Practitioner/Trainer in Neuro-Linguistic Programming who has published four books and over 200 articles, reviews, and interviews in magazines, newsletters, blogs, and websites.