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2/21/24 blog post

self-confidence starts here: the art of learning to accept compliments

Be a positive role model by modeling these 5 behaviors

mother and daughter accept compliments

In this article:

all eyes on you: why it’s important to accept compliments positively

Compliments come from a positive place, but many people may find it hard to receive a compliment.

In fact, a study done by the Harvard Business Review found that out of 400 people nearly 70% of people associated feelings of embarrassment or discomfort with recognition or receiving a compliment. Why is that?

Compliments can be hard to receive for many reasons including:

  • Fear of looking full of ourselves or selfish
  • Having low self-esteem and not believing that the compliment is true
  • Feeling embarrassed for having extra attention put on them

Brushing off compliments might be a way that we try to stay humble or dodge the awkward spotlight, but here’s the thing: the kids in your life are watching you closely. They're not just seeing your response; they're soaking it all in. Your reaction becomes a measuring stick for their own self-worth and abilities. Responding positively could be a game-changer for not just you, but the little ones watching you closely.

Stop, look, and listen: how to receive a compliment

Not receiving a compliment might come as a knee-jerk reaction for many who are conditioned to reject positive attention. Think about the last time you received a compliment. The last time someone said, “You look great today" did you say,  “Do I normally look bad?” When you got a compliment on a cake you made, did you say "Thanks, it is a little dry though.” Or maybe someone at work said, "You did a great job on our presentation!” but you responded with “Oh, it was nothing, you did a great job though!”

These are all ways that we deflect compliments and not only can it be an unintentionally rude reaction, it can also set a negative tone for the kids watching what we do!

Instead, you can have a positive role in how they accept the compliments you lavish on them by modeling positive behaviors like accepting a compliment positively in their presence.

First, learn these 5 simple steps to positively accept a compliment the next time you get one and remember to share the steps with the kids in your life so that they can learn too:

  1. Stop. Stop what you are doing. If you are looking at your phone or completing another task, take a moment and pause.
  2. Look. Look the person in the eyes. If this makes you too nervous or intimidated, look at their forehead just above their eyes.
  3. Listen. Listen to what they are saying to you. Stop the negative thoughts that are telling you that the compliment is not true or that you actually aren’t good enough. Just listen.
  4. Respond. You can simply say “thank you” or “I appreciate that.” Do not say something that will negate the compliment like “Oh it’s nothing” or, “It’s “not that great.”
  5. Reflect. Take a little time later to reflect on the positive compliment. You can just think about the words or journal about them. Writing down compliments that you receive and revisiting them at a later time can help you build your confidence over time.

A compliment’s purpose is to build someone up, enhance their confidence, and recognize them for their strengths. While society has conditioned us to shrug off compliments and downplay our successes, the next time that you get a compliment we want you to receive it!

That doesn’t just mean you hear it and don’t respond. No, we want you to hear it and then let it soak into your heart! For some people, receiving a compliment can be uncomfortable. If this is you, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are not alone in feeling this discomfort. The more you practice, the more comfortable it will become.

​​​​​​*Helpful Hint: Leave the ‘but’ behind

Avoid using the word “but” both when giving and receiving compliments. The word “but” erases the positive impact of what was just shared!  Try replacing the word ‘but’ with the word “and.” For example, if avoid saying, " You are so funny but you need to learn when to stop and do your homework." Insteda ry saying, "You are so funny and I know you can take a pause from the jokes to get your work done!"

FREE DOWNLOAD: creating a meaningful compliment

As a caring adult, you want to give the kids in your life compliments that build them up and boost their confidence. By learning how to give a meaningful compliment, you can enhance a child’s self-esteem and encourage them to continue showing positive behaviors.

The On Our Sleeves experts created a hands-on Create a Compliment guide that will help you build a compliment to share with others.  Download it and get started today!

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Emily Weitz, BSW, LSW

Outreach Coordinator
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