How To Accept Compliments And Bolster Your Leadership Skills

As a leader, you probably get complimented fairly often – for presentations, new hires, programs or projects that exceeded expectations – the list could go on. Accepting a compliment graciously with a big smile and simple “thank you” come naturally to some people, but not for others.

If compliments make you uncomfortable, you probably deflect them by saying things like, “Oh, it was nothing” or “It didn’t turn out exactly as planned” or “We can do better.” These statements, repeated often enough, will undermine others’ confidence in you and thus your effectiveness as a leader.

When you deflect a compliment, you:

  • Imply someone else can do it better than you
  • Show a lack of confidence
  • Insult the complimenter by suggesting they are wrong
  • Make the complimenter feel uncomfortable or embarrassed for saying something
  • Discount your own skills and knowledge

When you accept a compliment, you:

  • Acknowledge your own worth
  • Display a healthy level of modesty and confidence
  • Show you trust the complimenter
  • Start a conversation about that topic, thus gaining valuable feedback or insight from the complimenter
  • Have the opportunity to acknowledge everyone who contributed to the success

If you have a hard time accepting a compliment, here are some ideas of what to say in return after you say “Thank you”:

  • I appreciate that.
  • That means a lot to me.
  • I really enjoyed working on the project, and I’m glad you did too.
  • We are really proud of our success.
  • We all worked really hard to launch this program.

Note the mentions of “we” – a great way to spread the compliment around to everyone involved, whether or not they are there.

As you practice accepting compliments, practice complimenting others, whether it’s the barista at Starbucks, a helpful sales clerk, or an employee. Once you see how happy a sincere compliment makes other people, it might become easier to accept compliments directed at you.

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