Compliments can feel uncomfortable. We crave validation and we want people to like us, but when others voice what they like about us, what we’re doing, what we’re wearing, or how we look, why is the knee-jerk reaction to cringe? To act avoidant? To deny? Are we afraid of seeming like narcissists?
Maybe we don’t want to come off cocky. But why should we punish the compliment giver by denying such an act of kindness? After all, loving others only comes easily when we know how to love ourselves. Let’s recognize the power of turning our social instincts around.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Jennifer Galvan, understands this more than anyone. Accepting compliments is actually a loving gesture and a warm, welcoming connection with another individual. A compliment is an offering. It’s an extension of positivity, and accepting it is part of reciprocating and spreading that positivity, encouraging more of it, and in turn spreading kindness and generosity. But it’s not so easy.
“According to the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, people only accept compliments one-third of the time and deflect or reject compliments the other two-thirds of the time,” Dr. Galvan shares. “Oftentimes, people don’t receive compliments well because it doesn’t match their inner narrative, and ends up altering their self-perception.”
Not accepting compliments is our own way of maintaining and perpetuating negative self-talk. We brush off a compliment as if it never happened. We reject the notion that we might actually be good. “Therefore, unconsciously, the compliment gets rejected as a way of preserving their personal story, even if it’s a negative one. It’s confirmation bias. We hear and see what confirms our existing beliefs.”
Conditioning ourselves to do the opposite helps to shift our mental narrative. This doesn’t mean we have to become conceited or narcissistic. Dr. Galvan explains that “learning to receive compliments becomes an act of self-love and allows us to have an open mind and adopt another person’s perspective as a new potential truth about us. It takes courage to be able to consider these viewpoints and respond to them with acceptance.”
It’s not that we are more than willing to accept them and immediately consider ourselves as just so undeniably fantastic. It’s that we are allowing ourselves to understand that other people have different perspectives, and being open to the positive perspectives about ourselves allows us to be more flexible about others’ perspectives in general, and to be softer on ourselves.
“Learning to accept and absorb the compliment not only feels good for the giver of the compliment, but you may be surprised to find yourself feeling good too! Here are some ways you can practice verbally accepting compliments:
‘Thank you.’ (yes, it is as simple as that).
‘I appreciate you noticing that about me.’
‘That means a lot.’
‘I’m glad I could help.’”
These may seem like straightforward pointers, but Dr. Galvan doesn’t want to make this more complicated than it is. She knows more often than not, we struggle to respond with a simple thank you.
“Get the point? Good … I know you’re smart and will catch on quick! (Did you take that in?)” Thanks, Dr. Galvan. We are smart.