Learning to Accept Compliments
Tell a fellow project manager she did a great job in completing her project and she moans, “Not really. We flubbed the middle phase.” Tell a colleague, “Kudos on earning the Employee of the Month award,” and he smiles and says, “Shows how low their standards are.” Tell a coworker you’re impressed with how organized his desk is and he grimaces and says, “What, this mess? I wish I knew how to be organized.”
These kinds of responses are more than a form of modesty; it’s as if these people don’t believe they deserve the compliment, and by accepting it, they’re perpetrating some sort of fraud.
When you deflect compliments, you not just missing out on basking in the glow of someone’s kind words. You’re also putting down the person who offered the compliment—in effect, criticizing the person for commenting positively about something you said or did.
If deflecting compliments is something you do, try instead to respond with a simple “Thank you.” If you want, you can add a few words, such as “Thank you. I’m really glad you like it,” or “Wow, thanks, I appreciate your telling me that.”
You can also add a detail or two, such as, “Thanks. There were times I thought I’d never survive this project, but I have to say I’ve learned so much from it.” Or you can ask a question: “Thanks. I’m so glad you like the article. Was there anything in particular that stood out for you?”
Of course, if someone compliments you on work that your coworkers or others contributed to, be forthright in sharing the credit. You could say, “Thanks. That’s thoughtful of you. Sam and Ashleigh worked with me on this project, and I was lucky to collaborate with such savvy teammates.” You’ll be responding graciously to the compliment and at the same time showing that you have no reluctance to give credit where it’s due.
If you really want to deflect a compliment, there’s no lack of ways to do so. You can, for example, ignore it, deny it, challenge it, trivialize it, de-value it, seek reassurance that it’s a genuine compliment, or insult the complimenter. But why bother, when you can simply say thank you?
And you don’t have to wait for someone to compliment you to offer a compliment to someone else. Complimenting is contagious, and it’s one of the most important things you can do to create a positive workplace culture.