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What Is So Impactful About Receiving and Accepting Compliments?

The nature of compliments and people’s responses to them is interesting and potentially counter intuitive. As humans we crave validation from others and human connection. We want people to like us! Interpersonal connections and social interactions are vital to our well-being. However, despite the desire for external validation from others, whether in our personal lives or at work, we tend to shy away from compliments. When people in our lives compliment us, tell us what they like about us, praise the work that we’re doing, or name something positive they admire, we frequently become uncomfortable. Some people visibly cringe, pretend like they didn’t hear the person, or even deny what they’re saying. When we don’t accept compliments or, in so many words, tell the person they’re wrong, we’re not only invalidating ourselves but the experience of others as well. So, why do we do this? Maybe we don’t want to come off as cocky or narcissistic. Maybe society has taught us this is the way to be humble which is a valued trait. Or maybe it’s another reason altogether. Regardless of the reason why, when we deny a compliment, we are punishing ourselves and the compliment giver by denying an act of kindness and effort for human connection. 

Accepting compliments from others is a way of welcoming connection with another individual. “A compliment is an offering. It’s an extension of positivity, and accepting it is part of reciprocating and spreading that positivity, encouraging more of it, and in turn spreading kindness and generosity.” Despite potentially understanding the intention behind a compliment and the opportunity for connection, actually putting this into practice can be challenging. Research has shown people only accept compliments from others one-third of the time. The other two-thirds of the time the individual deflects or rejects the person’s outreach. The reasoning behind this may go deeper than expected. When we receive information that doesn’t align with perspectives or thoughts, we’ve already solidified we tend to reject the new information. Therefore, if the compliment doesn’t align with the inner narrative, we’ve already created, we reject it. “Not accepting compliments is our own way of maintaining and perpetuating negative self-talk.” 

When we acknowledge the reasoning behind rejecting compliments, it can help us become aware of negative self-talk we may be engaging in. By bringing awareness to this habit, we can catch ourselves when we begin to deny a compliment and entertain the possibility that the person may be being truthful, and our perception may be skewed. Dr. Jennifer Galva, Licensed Clinical Psychologist explains, “Learning to receive complements becomes an act of self-love and allows us to have an open mind and adopt another person’s perspective as a new potential truth about us. It takes courage to be able to consider these viewpoints and respond to them with acceptance.” This allows us to begin expanding our self-perception and begin to see ourselves through other people’s perspectives. Simply responding with, “thank you” or “I appreciate that” or “that means a lot” is all it takes and gets easier with time and practice. Responding this way not only allows the giver of the compliment to feel positive but may actually make the receiver feel better as well. Over time, we’ll move from simply accepting the compliment to absorbing it as well. This shift helps us to create a healthier more positive internal narrative which is beneficial for our overall self-concept. 

If you’ve found yourself struggling to shift your internal narrative, it may be useful to try counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment today with one of our very skilled therapists in Chicago!

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