Always Accept Compliments

This is one of those things that’s probably a pet peeve of mine because I use to do it myself, but I figured I would share what I was told during my performance days.

I’ve seen this phenomenon a bunch, a performer or presenter gets done, an audience member comes up and says something along the lines of “Great job,” the complimented responds with something like:

  • “Oh I totally screwed up”
  • “No, I didn’t really do anything”
  • “No, I thought it went awfully”

Invariably there are two things that drive this:

1. The presenter/performer is so caught up in their own self examination, that they are being hyper critical and sharing it with the complementer.

2. The presenter/performer is concerned about the appearance of humility.

Both ignore a greater truth in the interaction: Someone has said something nice to you, and you are immediately telling them they are wrong! Even if they don’t directly perceive this, it can leave them with a bad taste in their mouth.

So what do you do? Say “Thank you,” that’s it. Leave the self examination stuff where it belongs, in your head. If you are concerned with your ego, accept and expand the compliment: “Thank you; I have to say the audience was really great, you guys asked really great questions.”

It’s a silly little thing, but it can have a big impact on how you are perceived.

7 thoughts on “Always Accept Compliments

  1. I find myself doing this often — and try to catch myself. I always start with a thank you, but in an automatic mode (often time, after a long talk you are in a daze anyway), I tend to be down on myself and only take the criticisms (even if they are from myself). It is just one of those things that you learn, I guess!


  2. You make a great point, Terrence. That said, I think there’s a 3rd reason people may say this to a speaker: when it’s true. πŸ™‚ I’ve observed occasions where people feel compelled to say “great job” even when, in fact, the speaker did screw up or flounder.

    Flipping the script, it’s as if some people feel the need to bolster others even when they clearly dropped the ball. (Maybe goes back to childhood experiences: “It’s ok dear, mommy was gonna get rid of that old Ming vase anyway. You go out and play.”)

    So the sad truth is that this confuses the whole issue, and I’d bet that some speakers are savvy to this point, so if they DO feel they messed up, and someone still says “great job”, they may be inclined to wonder if it’s just vacuous propping up. πŸ™‚

    That said, I agree that if someone’s a) stuck around for the whole session and b) still comes up after and says great job, then they probably do mean it sincerely, and folks should consider your points.


  3. I hear what you’re saying, but I would argue that even in that case, you have someone blowing smoke up your ass, you still shouldn’t disagree with them. Either you did well or not; either you are capable of determining that for yourself or not. But if an audience member is expressing happiness with you, roll with it.
    Leave the self-analysis in your head, unless the person is already a friend.


  4. Technically speaking, there is nothing wrong with “Great job” and “I thought it went awfully”. What could be pleasing to one person, may be unacceptable in another person’s standards. One may disagree about evaluation of accomplishments, especially when you judge harshly your own work. It is worse when one say “I made great job” and the audience is “We though it went awfully”. πŸ˜‰

    And when presenter says “I did not do anything special” it may actually be the truth. It depends on the amount of work put into the process. πŸ˜‰

    Last but not least – MODESTY.

    Take care,
    Bjorn H.
    Generally, I agree on taking compliments with grace. It is all about specific cases.


  5. Funny thing, but I’ve noticed that most people find it very difficult in excepting a compliment AND that they desperately need the person who gave them the compliment to come back and give them another because of their insecurities. I think most people really need to be “stroked” as they say.
    Best Wishes,
    Betsy Buchanan


    I always felt the only way people would like me if I constantly compliment them. I got friends this, way, but then these people kept expecting me to be their constant ego booster without complimenting me or supporting me in return. As a result of my desperation, I attracted selfish, self-absorbed, self-centered people instead of true friends. Once I stopped complimenting them, they stopped coming around. To me, complimenting people puts YOU in an INFERIOR position! It automatically is saying, “you’re great, I’m not, so I have to acknowledge your greatness so you’ll keep liking me.” That is MY EXPERIENCE WITH COMPLIMENTS. Yeah, people need stroking, BUT SO DO I!!!! If you don’t compliment people, stay aloof, and have a SUPERIOR ATTITUDE, then people will begin to think YOU ARE IMPORTANT and deserving of compliments. Then they will start. If you start the compliments, people will expect it and not give you any back when you are deserving.


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