A Two-Step Strategy for Communicating and Receiving Compliments

Receiving compliments is an important part of business. Most of us enjoy getting compliments about our work from our clients, but sometimes it’s difficult to know how to respond. Not responding, or responding poorly can actually damage your relationships with clients, employees, managers, and other business colleagues.

Have you ever given someone a compliment and they just brushed it off? How did you feel? Probably not too great.

When someone gives you a compliment—or when you give someone else a compliment—think of it as a verbal gift.

If you got a friend a gift for his birthday, for example, and he responded with a very melancholic, “Um. Thanks. I think. I didn’t ask for anything,” I doubt that you’re going to be giving him another gift in the future.

Plus, I’m guessing you’d feel pretty crummy.

Don’t make a compliment giver feel that way!

A Two-Step Strategy for Receiving and Responding to Compliments

When people give you compliments, own them, accept them, and respond positively. If you’re uncomfortable receiving compliments, try to remember that the intent of the compliment is a gift to make you feel or respond positively.

However, if you’re at a loss for words to respond, here’s a strategy that you can use in almost every situation. First, thank. Then, affirm.

Let’s look at this in action.

Jane: “Hey Scott, I like your shirt!”

Scott: “Oh, um, thanks, well, it’s no big deal. I just got it on clearance somewhere.

WRONG! In this instance Scott downplayed the compliment, leaving me with the feeling that my opinion and gift don’t matter to him.

Let’s change this up using the Thank/Affirm strategy.

Jane: “Hey Scott, I like your shirt!”

Scott: “Thanks, Jane. I really like it, too.”

That thanks the compliment giver AND affirms her feelings and thoughts. If that approach is a little too forward for you, try this one:

Scott: “Thanks, Jane. I really appreciate that you noticed.”

This way you’re both thanking the giver and also recognizing their effort in noticing. I prefer this second response more because you’re also giving an undercover compliment back to Jane that she’s observant.

While this example may seem simple, compliments like this happen all of the time in the workplace and are often brushed aside. If you’re a manager and are downplaying compliments that you receive from members of your team, you’re communicating to them that their opinions have little weight. If you’re an employee, and you are shying away from accepting compliments from a superior, you’re displaying a lack of confidence.

Let’s take a look at an example that happens based on an employee’s performance.

Manager: “Great job on this project.”

Employee: “Thanks.”

This is a simple but regular exchange in the workplace. However, both manager and employee are missing an opportunity to strengthen the compliment, feedback, and relationship.

This would be a better exchange, using the thank-and-affirm model.

Manager: “Great job on this project. I particularly like how you managed the reporting aspect.”

Employee: “Thanks for giving me the opportunity to lead. I’m glad to know it was a success. I’d appreciate being considered for future projects.”

In this exchange the manager gave a more meaningful compliment, adding something specific, and the employee both thanked and affirmed the message. Also, the employee stated interest in continuing responsibilities based on the compliment.

Neither party leaves anything unsaid.

Accept compliments and respond positively. Thank and affirm. A simple communication strategy with lasting results.

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