What are good ways to respond to people saying nice things about me?
January 20, 2014 3:39 PM   Subscribe

Every so often people say nice things about me to me and I am generally confused and flummoxed about how to respond in a way that isn't either boastful or self-effacing but also isn't awkward and weird for both of us. I know there have got to be classy ways to do this because its a normal part of life and it occurred to me that I haven't noticed anyone else handle it notably. How does that work?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
"That's very kind of you."
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:41 PM on January 20, 2014 [14 favorites]

I'm with you. I've tried to get better at this. If it's about something I made (normally the case) I say "I'm so glad you like it." If it's an attribute, I say, "That's really kind of you to say." I don't know if either is sufficient, but it's the best I've come up with thus far.
posted by lassie at 3:43 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also struggle with receiving compliments, but I've learned that the best thing you can say is "thank you."

(And on being self effacing, some advice that John Cleese once gave to Stephen Fry, paraphrased: You'll never get anywhere, or be very happy, if you keep being polite all the time. Politeness can be very rude: if someone compliments you and you say 'Oh that? It was nothing,' then you're basically telling them that they're an idiot for thinking well of you.)
posted by gmb at 3:46 PM on January 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

"Thank you?"
posted by cmoj at 3:46 PM on January 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

"Thank you, it's very nice of you to say that."
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:52 PM on January 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

"Thank you, that's very nice of you to say."

If you must add a qualification like, "I couldn't have done it without so-and-so's help", or "I've been lucky enough to have access to X and Y, which really helped." only do so after the above.

The fact you haven't noticed how anybody else responds to it is a good indication of how interested people are in responses to compliments. Accept it gracefully, and move on; the giver already has.
posted by smoke at 3:53 PM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Why, thank you!"

I don't know why the "Why" at the beginning makes it so much easier to say, but it really does.

If you feel like you need to elaborate, you can throw some light towards your process, or share the praise around. I'm a performer, and when I get complimented on a performance, I will frequently go with something like "Thank you so much, it was a lot of hard work to prepare but I really think it went well!" or "Why, thank you! It's an honor and a pleasure, thank you so much for coming."
posted by KathrynT at 4:01 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Depending on the situation, sometimes just "Thank you" is enough. (That coat looks great on you! Thanks!) Sometimes "Thank you" plus a little comment to point the attention back at the thing/action/whatever instead of yourself. ("OMG you made that coat, it's amazing!" "Thank you, I love this color wool!") Sometimes "Thank you" plus a compliment for them ("That coat looks great on you, I wish I could wear pink. Thank you, I think you'd look great in pink actually!)

And you can be a little self-effacing, I think, you just don't want to make the other person uncomfortable. (That coat looks great on you! Aw, thanks, I wasn't sure if it made me look like a giant cake pop, so I appreciate that!)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:06 PM on January 20, 2014

One thing that might help is to understand that there's a human and cultural need to give appreciation and recognize virtues that we see in life and in other people. This reality helps frame a response to a compliment in a way that isn't primarily about the receiver, but the giver as well. That is, if it's good for people to genuinely show appreciation for good things, the emphasis in your response can be more on the "Thank so much, that's kind of you to say that."

See the perspective shift? It acknowledges the receipt of the compliment of course (which is simply polite), while primarily noting something of value in the giver: you acknowledge that they are the kind of person who is actively appreciative of something they perceive as being good in the world. (And we could use more of that in life, rather than the other way around. When we brush off and discourage value appreciation as being unimportant, I think we may actually do a little bit of harm in the world.)

Instead of internalizing your response as being prideful, then, you are actively encouraging the complimenter for taking an action that is exactly the opposite of pride. They are getting outside of their own head, so to speak, and acknowledging the good of others. That's to be commended, and when you focus on that, it helps you get out of your own head, too.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:10 PM on January 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

"Thank you! You just made my day!" works for me, because it lets the complimentor know that what s/he said actually affects my outlook.
posted by xingcat at 4:12 PM on January 20, 2014 [11 favorites]

The third way - not boastful and not self-effacing - is to be warm and genuine. When it makes sense, give a little detail, ask a question, or compliment them in return.

"Your souffle is exquisite!"
"Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it."

"Your rendition of Danny Boy brought me to tears."
"Thank you, do you often come to didgeridoo open mic night?"

"I love your art."
"Thank you, I really love working with paper mache. This piece was inspired by my dog Fluffy."

"Your brooch is adorable."
"Why thank you! I was just noticing your boots, what a great color."

Often compliments are an attempt to connect. Rebuffing the compliment can easily turn into rebuffing the connection or insulting someone else's taste. No one gives a compliment hoping to make someone squirm or say "Naw, I sucked."

Do you often give compliments? Practicing giving them might make you more comfortable with receiving them.
posted by bunderful at 4:23 PM on January 20, 2014 [16 favorites]

I always say, "You're sweet" or "Oh, you're kind". This is because, when I was bullied as a kid, if I said, "Thank you", people would say, "Look at her. She believes it. She's stuck up." But turning away the compliment was also fraught with danger and later, it seemed kind of rude to turn down a real compliment. By responding with "You're sweet/kind", I acknowledge it, do not suggest I am stuck up, and turn it back to the giver. I guess maybe that's kind of sad, but it works and I have a reason to smile back to the person and acknowledge them, rather than saying, "Oh, these old things?" or "Nah, I'm not!"
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:14 PM on January 20, 2014

There is a continuum of compliments from superficial to personal: "I like that shirt" is something you can say to a stranger. "I like that thing you made" requires a bit more knowledge of you on their part. "You are so smart/generous/thoughtful" usually comes from someone you have interacted with a fair amount. For me, it is easier to reply to the more superficial ones with just "Thanks". Practice that and it will get easier to reply to the others in a positive way that does not feel uncomfortable.
posted by soelo at 5:29 PM on January 20, 2014

Thank you. I appreciate your saying that.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:32 PM on January 20, 2014

I dont see "make eye contact, smile, and look sincerely flattered"

If it feels right you could add "be sure to tell my boss"
posted by jander03 at 8:19 PM on January 20, 2014

There are so many different situations this could apply to — there might not be one exact sentence to fit all occasions. So instead of trying to craft the perfect sentence in advance, just keep in mind these 4 words: "Thank you — I'm glad…"

Finish the sentence in whatever way is appropriate. For instance, "Thank you, I'm glad it was helpful" (if they're complimenting something you did to help them, or their boss, etc.). Or: "Thank you, I'm glad you liked it." That kind of thing.
posted by John Cohen at 9:06 PM on January 20, 2014

Depends on the compliment, but "thank you" should suffice. Anything expressing gratitude. "Aw, that's very nice of you to say, thank you." "Thanks, I appreciate that." If you want to be extra modest, "Oh thank you, you're far too kind." But when you say something like that and are modest, there is a chance they will repeat the compliment in another way. You could say something like, "Oh thanks, I worked hard on that" or "Thanks, I wasn't sure but I'm glad it turned out well" or "Thanks, I'm glad you found it useful." And so on.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:15 PM on January 20, 2014

"That's encouraging."

Patron becomes participant.
posted by gregoreo at 2:32 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been working on this and it helps me, if it feels right, to make a little joke like "thanks, flattery will get you everywhere!"
posted by london explorer girl at 10:00 AM on January 21, 2014

Yup. I figured this one out after observing a friend who was very tactful about it and hit the right notes when saying thanks. Saying "thanks" in a modest, appreciative way is very important to people. I don't know about you but personally I don't like it when I give someone a compliment and they just throw it to the ground. I have a friend who cannot take a compliment, and every time I say something nice she would say the total opposite of what I said. You know what I did? I stopped giving her compliments and encouragement.

A nice "Oh! well, thank you" with a smile and a laugh and then I try to change the subject so I'm not wallowing in the compliment. I also like variations on "Thanks! That really means a lot to me" (this is reserved for compliments about my art that are more than superficial).

All the suggestions above are great! (although I'm not sure about london explorer girl's flattery will get you everywhere, that's kind of insulting I think. If someone said that to me I'd be quite mad).
posted by christiehawk at 9:02 AM on January 23, 2014

Over 30 years ago, my 8th grade teacher gave us all some great advice. When receiving a compliment, don't get all flummoxed thinking about what to say- just smile and say "Thank you." I've remembered that all these years, and it's so true!
posted by shelayna at 12:02 PM on January 23, 2014

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