What do you do when someone gives you a compliment?

Do you dismiss it?

“Oh, I was just doing my job.” “It was nothing.” “No, big deal.”


“Everyone else worked way harder than me.”

Or reject it outright and use the opportunity to talk yourself down?

“Don’t lie, I was crap.”

Dismissing compliments is a very Australian thing to do. It’s linked to tall poppy syndrome, an engrained (and damaging) part of our culture, where we cut people down if they shine too brightly or appear ‘too big for their boots’.

There’s almost nothing worse than being seen as a bit up yourself in this country, so we talk ourselves down before anyone else can do it for us.

As a result, many of us are terrible at accepting compliments and deeply uncomfortable with praise.

What’s the big deal, you may be asking?

Here are three problems with dismissing compliments:

  1. It’s rude.
  2. When you dismiss a compliment, you are essentially rejecting a gift someone else is giving you. You’re dismissing their opinion and may make them feel put-out or disappointed that their kindness and praise has not been received. It can also feel like you’re fishing for further reassurance which is draining and frustrating

  3. It downplays your achievements and can impact how others perceive you.
  4. When you constantly talk yourself down and verbalise your self-doubt to others, they can start believing it. For example; if you dismiss compliments about your presentations by saying “I’m terrible at speaking in front of a group”, this may impact your chances of landing a promotion that involves leading a team.

  5. It squashes praise and creates an environment where only negative feedback is given.
  6. Many people complain about a lack of positive feedback in their workplace. What we don’t realise is that our rejection of compliments plays a role in creating this culture. When we continually dismiss compliments, the compliment giver may question why they bother praising good performance at all.

So, if dismissing compliments is rude, how can we get better at accepting them?

I’m going to teach you an effective technique. It’s a little complicated, so stay with me here. Are you ready? Here it is:

Say “Thank you”.

That’s it.

Ok, so I lied about the complicated part.

You might like to add:

  • “Thank you. That’s really kind of you.”
  • “Thank you, I appreciate the feedback”, or
  • “Thank you, I receive that.”

It doesn’t even matter whether you agree with the compliment or not. You’re not saying “Thanks, I know I’m fabulous”, you’re simply thanking the person for the kind thing they said to you.

When we respond to compliments this way, we show that we appreciate the person giving the compliment. As a result, they walk away feeling good about themselves and are more likely to continue giving positive feedback to you and others. That simple act of us receiving it well encourages a positive feedback culture.

Accepting compliments (even when it feels uncomfortable) can also help boost your confidence, improve self-esteem and is one of the first steps you can take to start building your assertiveness.

It takes practice but it can have a big impact.

So, my action for you as we race toward Christmas is this: Practice saying ‘thank you’ when you receive a compliment.

Remember, compliments are a gift you’ve been given and one that you can return by receiving them well.


Leah Mether is a communication and soft skill specialist. She helps leaders and employees get out of their own way by managing themselves and doing the ‘people bit’ better. Find out more about Leah’s workplace training, keynote speaking and book ‘Soft is the New Hard: How to Communicate Effectively Under Pressure’ at https://leahmether.com.au.


#communication #compliments #feedback #softskill #assertiveness