how to receive a compliment

28 Apr

I’ve never really been that shy about giving compliments.

It’s something I’m a bit proud of.  If there’s compliment fodder at hand, why not mention it?  Why not tell somebody that they’re great at math, or that they have lovely hands, or that they always wear the prettiest jewelry?

Oh, that’s right.  Because some of us suck at receiving compliments.

Folks like this are everywhere, like little mines in the minefield of social interaction.  Let’s say you’re waiting in line to get your grande hazelnut mocha at Starbucks, and the woman ahead of you has truly transcendent hair.  Like, beautiful silky brown curls, the kind that get advertised in magazines.  So you tap her shyly on the shoulder and say, “Um, I just wanted to say that your hair is fantastic!”  Normally, this would develop into a pleasant little one-time interaction between the two of you, but there are a wide variety of Bad Compliment Receivers in the world.

She may react too modestly:  “Oh, no no no, it looks terrible today.”

Or she may start a bragging spree: “I know, my hair always looks fantastic.  It’s part of why I’m rich and successful, and my sexy Puerto Rican supermodel/rocket scientist boyfriend just adores it!”

She might get rude and snarky: “See, that’s what happens when you wash it.”

It’s possible that she’ll even TMI you with a diatribe of weirdness: “Well, I wash it with a gallon of lamb’s blood every full moon and whenever it gets too greasy.  It’s best to do it outside on a cold day, so that all the nutrients from the blood can really seep into the scalp.  Also, I find if I do a little pube wash at the same time, it really makes those babies glow.”

When Taylor read that last passage, he tried to tell me precisely what’s gross about it, and pretty much just said, “All of it.”

Folks, nobody actually wants to be any of these people.  All of these reactions are usually the unfortunate result of just not knowing what to say.  It’s tough to be put on the spot, even in a pleasant way, and often when we’re caught off guard we resort to saying something strange or mean.  If we just knew exactly how to respond to a compliment, we would never end up telling that nice girl in Starbucks about how turned on we get by listening to Pavorotti in bed.

In an effort to prevent this exact sort of awkwardness, I’ve put together a comprehensive set of instructions.  Feel free to print them out, put them in your pocket, and carry them around.  The next time somebody says something sweet to you, pull it out, follow the conveniently numbered steps, and you will have just made a friend and evaded the reputation of being mean/odd/self-hating.

Welcome To Jessica Bagley’s Completely Comprehensive Guide To Receiving Compliments, Specially Designed For The Uninitiated And Uninformed.

So you’ve received a compliment!  Good for you!  Don’t panic, breathe deeply, and complete the following steps:

1.  Say ‘Thank You’.


This Has Been Jessica Bagley’s Completely Comprehensive Guide To Receiving Compliments, Specially Designed For The Uninitiated And Uninformed.


Posted by on April 28, 2010 in Uncategorized


19 responses to “how to receive a compliment

  1. Vanessa

    April 29, 2010 at 5:56 am

    Totally agree! I’ve never had anyone get snarky in response to a compliment, though. I guess I’ve never complimented a popular girl who thinks I’m a nerd (I am).

    • Vanessa

      April 29, 2010 at 5:56 am

      I mean “give” a snarky response. Oops.

      • Jessica

        April 29, 2010 at 8:45 am

        That’s lucky! I don’t get it very frequently, but I do get it. Most recently, I commented on a coworker’s haircut. I don’t see this particular coworker very often, so when we ran into each other at the copier, i said, “Oh, did you get your hair cut? It looks nice!”

        She responded with, “Figure that out by yourself? It’s FIVE INCHES SHORTER.”

        Maybe she was just peeved that nobody else had noticed yet.

  2. lisa

    April 29, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Wow, your coworker’s response was so rude! I usually go the “smile and say thanks” route myself.

    In other news, “sexy Puerto Rican supermodel/rocket scientist boyfriend” just makes my day.

  3. clawmom

    April 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    My favorite reply to this type of snarkyness is, “You’re welcome!” With a smile on your face.
    This is useful because:
    1. There really isn’t a proper response to such an insult. 2. Miss Manners would approve because you have been polite and gone by the script.
    3.Your insultor does not get the satisfaction of putting you on the defensive.
    4.There is a very slight possibility that they will think about how rude they were.

  4. Tess Malone

    April 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I need this. I usually try to convince people they’re wrong when they compliment me. I actually think it’s a bit of a societal problem. We’re taught to be so humble but when we’ve worked hard at something or been lucky, why not be proud of it?

  5. Marie

    April 29, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Great post, found your blog via Daddy Likey. I think it’s less awkward for everyone if you just accept it graciously and say thanks. Most compliments I get are about my musical talent, and if I say oh it was horrible and tell them about my mistakes, that’s actually insulting. I’m saying they don’t know enough about music to realize I made a mistake. Or fashion or hair, same idea.

  6. Prêt à Porter P

    April 29, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    If it’s a stranger I say “Thanks.” Also, I think compliments coming from other women trump ones given by males. It seems more genuine. And a compliment from an older gal, means I’m really doing something right.

  7. Lovers, Saints & Sailors

    April 29, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    My Mum likes to tell me about a time when I was 3 and got a compliment on my hair. At that stage I looked like a red headed Shirley Temple. We were in a lift and a lovely older lady said to me “My, isn’t your hair beautiful?”. I beamed back up at her and said “I know.”
    Mum says that it was perfect because I didn’t know about playing it down or making her feel bad by disagreeing. I keep it in mind. Whenever I get a compliment now I smile a big smile and say thanks.

  8. Jennifer

    April 29, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I found you through DaddyLikey too! 😀

    I admit that I can’t take a compliment. But I have social awkwardness anyway, have self confidence issues, and am almost painfully shy at times. I get really flustered and nervous when people I don’t know randomly talk to me at all, because I’m worried I’ll say or do something wrong. And don’t get me started on strangers touching me! But that’s a whole other issue…

    Anyway, I’m one who will self deprecate to deflect a compliment. I am getting somewhat better about just smiling and saying thanks, but I think my lack of confidence in myself really comes into play in these situations, and I end up belittling myself when I honestly don’t feel deserving of whatever compliment I got.

    I also can never bring myself to go up to a stranger to compliment them. This is where the shyness comes in, and the feeling that I’d be “bothering” the other person by going up to them. I know it makes me feel awkward, so I guess I worry that its the same for everyone else.

    Anyway, nice blog you have here! I’ll stop rambling now…

  9. WendyB

    April 29, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Good advice!

  10. Kim

    April 30, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Nice guide, Jessica! If I may, and this is (of course) optional, may I suggest that Step 2 be “Smile”? It’s actually interchangeable with Step 1, but makes it particularly effective. PS Your coworker is a jerk. PPS Looks like a bunch of us got the link from Daddy Likey. When you let Winona know she’s great for sending readers over, I’m pretty confident she’ll receive the compliment well. 🙂

  11. rachel

    April 30, 2010 at 10:52 am

    I need to print this out and put it in my pocket, I am soo the diatribe of weirdness type:

    “I love that scarf in your hair today!”

    “Thanks! My hair’s really dirty; I tried de-greasing it with a baby wipe which just made it kinda sticky, but now the scarf stays in place really well!”

    “uhhh….” (backs away slowly.)

    • Jessica

      April 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm

      HAHA! Oh, man, I won’t lie, I am that same type. People are like, “Oh, nice mascara!” and I am all, “UH ONE TIME I GOT AN EYE INFECTION FROM USING MY FRIEND’S EYELASH CURLER.”


  12. La Historiadora de Moda

    April 30, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I love it! Some people I know are so bad at accepting compliments that I have stopped giving them to them.

  13. Lynne

    April 30, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Found this via Already Pretty.
    I’ve learned to say thanks.
    I also now take it a step further (which gets rid of the “do I deserve this?”) By turning it back towards them, with something like, “What a lovely thing to say! You’ve made my day!”
    Right? or wrong?

    • Jessica

      April 30, 2010 at 6:53 pm

      Totally right! It’s a great way to start a conversation, plus it spreads more love around! 🙂 And more love is never a bad thing.

      Thanks for reading!

  14. kenzilisa

    April 30, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Yup, I’m one of those people who needs instructions. I’m fine with compliments from random strangers, but not from friends and loved-ones. I’ll keep your list handy…thanks!

  15. Eran

    May 1, 2010 at 7:41 am

    I usually just say thank you, so yay – the only thing I’m bad at is the once or twice a month I’ll wear a pony tail, when I’ll usually get a comment along the lines of “ooh, you look pretty with your hair up!” And since I think I look absolutely terrible with my hair up, I feel the need to clarify that and say the only reason I’m wearing a pony tail is because I was too lazy to shower that morning. xD So I’ll keep your advice in mind for those situations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: