“Aw, it was nothing...” ‘I didn’t do anything special...” “I was just part of the team that worked on it...”
For a lot of people, it is very difficult to accept a compliment. Many of our non-native English speaking clients tell us they grew up in a culture where accepting a compliment is considered rude and even boastful.
In the United States, if anything, we are accused of over-using compliments. Recently, there have been many psychology books admonishing this tendency, because many children begin to feel like they are the center of the universe and can do no wrong! Obviously, we need to strike a balance between both extremes.
In the American culture, if you do receive a compliment, it is expected that you will respond politely and honestly to the praise. Certainly a modest response is more favorable than a blatant conceited response. For example,
Compliment: “You did a great job facilitating the meeting this morning.”
Response #1: “I know. I am an amazing team leader.”
Response #2: “Thank you.”
For compliments to be meaningful, we need to be sincere and specific. Instead of telling a client or student, “You are doing great,” it is more helpful to say, “I like the way your took meaningful pauses between your thoughts. It helped you slow down your speech, and made me really focus on your ideas.” In addition, we want our clients and students to know when they are doing something correctly so that they will continue to utilize a trained strategy or technique. Constantly negating or down-playing feedback is not going to help our client gain the necessary self-awareness and confidence to improve.
Here are some expressions that are acceptable to use when someone has offered a sincere compliment:
- Thank you, thanks
- That’s nice to hear
- You are kind to say that
- I appreciate your comments
- I’m happy that you liked (it)
- Thanks for saying that
So remember when giving compliments, be honest and specific, and when receiving them, be gracious. If you need help with social communication skills, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.