How To Respond To A Compliment (With Examples)

By Kristin Kizer
Sep. 20, 2022
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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Having someone compliment you can be encouraging, but it can also be awkward if you don’t know how to respond. Accepting a compliment graciously is an important professional skill that you can learn and practice.

In this article, we’ll give you instructions on how to respond to a compliment, as well as example responses to refer to. We’ll also explain why responding well to compliments at work is important, how to give a compliment well, and how to practice these skills.

Key Takeaways

  • Respond to a compliment by saying thank you.

  • Don’t deflect, brag, or diminish a compliment someone gives you.

  • After you say thank you for the compliment, you can follow up with more information, a question, or a compliment in return.

How To Respond To A Compliment

How to Respond to a Compliment

Before we narrow it down to how to respond to professional compliments, let’s look at those more personal compliments. Let’s say you’re wearing a nice top and someone compliments you on it. How do you respond?

A) Oh gee, this old thing? I just threw it on.
B) Uh, thanks. I like your top too.
C) Thank you.

Which one of these is most like you, and which one do you lean into when responding to others? They’re all common ways to respond to a compliment, but only one of them is a good response.

It’s never good to downgrade someone’s compliment and insinuate that they’re wrong to give it.

It’s never necessary to follow up with a compliment in return unless you really mean it and it feels genuine. Otherwise, it’s just awkward.

And simply saying thank you is a great option. The more comfortable you become with compliments, the easier it will be to say more than thank you, but thanks do suffice.

Taking it a step further, you can learn to understand the motivation behind the compliment – sometimes.

If it’s a work-related compliment, there’s a good chance you did something that helps the person giving the compliment. This helps you respond more in-depth and to understand them better. It can even help you understand your job better.

In a personal situation, if someone compliments your awesome shoes, they probably want shoes like it, so it’s nice to share where you got them or the brand name.

Example Responses to Personal Compliments

This is a good place to start accepting and responding to compliments. You probably get a few of these regularly. If not, start giving them, and you’ll see you’ll start getting more. First, just work on saying thank you. Then, when that starts to feel okay, and you give yourself permission to be complimented, you can try these responses;

Compliment: I like your top.
Response: Thanks, it was a gift. I really like it too.

Compliment: I like your top.
Response: Oh, thank you. I just got it at Macy’s. I love this color for fall.

Compliment: I like your top.
Response: Well, thank you. That’s funny because I was just going to tell you I like yours also.

See how easy that is. Now let’s take the personal compliment a little deeper and look at some good responses.

Compliment: Your children are so well behaved.
Response: Thank you. We work hard to teach them manners.

Compliment: Your children are so well behaved.
Response: Thank you, they do their best.

Compliment: Your children are so well behaved.
Response: Thank you.

There’s no reason to say any more in this situation. A thank you and a genuine smile are good enough.

Example Responses to Professional Compliments at Work

Okay, the trick here is not to deflect, brag, or diminish the compliment. This can be difficult in a work setting, but saying thank you immediately gives you a second to think about what they said and come up with a good follow-up or don’t follow up at all. Remember, just saying thank you is good enough.

Compliment: You knocked it out of the park on that presentation.
Response: Oh, thank you. It means a lot to hear that. I sure put a lot of work into it.

Compliment: You knocked it out of the park on that presentation.
Response: Thank you. My team was a big help. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Compliment: You knocked it out of the park on that presentation.
Response: Thank you. I have to give the same presentation next week. Was there any area that you thought could have used a little work?

See how this can be handled in different ways. You can let them know how their appreciation has meaning to you. You can express thanks and give credit to others involved. Depending on the person, you can ask for more information.

Let’s try another work compliment scenario.

Compliment: You’ve come a long way since you started here.
Response: Thank you. Your help has had a lot to do with my achievements.

Compliment: You’ve come a long way since you started here.
Response: Oh, thank you. I’m really enjoying the work, and I’m learning too much along the way.

Compliment: You’ve come a long way since you started here.
Response: Thanks. I’ve worked really hard to understand this business and to make my mark here.

All three are equally gracious and express genuine thanks. Then credit can be dolled out as necessary, or you can take it all for yourself. You’ll get better at spotting when to do what, but you’re being complimented personally, so a genuine thank you is in order.

Why Responding Well to Work Compliments Is Important

Forget the personal compliments about your appearance, your taste in music, and your family for the moment. We’ll get back to them later because they’re important for practice. But let’s look at work compliments.

Getting a compliment at work reinforces your good points. They’re supposed to make you feel good, competent, and maybe even a little proud of the job you do.

The person who is giving the compliment is rewarded for this with a well-received response. That means they’re more likely to compliment you in the future. All of this means they’re more apt to look for things you do right as opposed to things you do wrong.

Also, if you look at what is being praised, you’re likely to focus on the good work you do in that area and maybe even do it better. Some interesting people, those natural contrarians, will take a compliment and look at the things that weren’t mentioned and try to step up their game there.

All-in-all being able to receive a compliment for your professional performance makes you look good, feel good, and it reinforces good thoughts about you. It also makes you more apt to give others compliments, and there are exponential benefits to that as well, but that’s a topic for another time.

How to Give Compliments

Okay, this is another part of receiving a compliment because sometimes they require that you give one in return. It’s also good to practice giving them because it makes you more receptive when you receive them.

Start trying it and see how people respond, you’ll find some great responses, and then you’ll start to notice how the bad ones make you feel.

  1. Be genuine. If you can’t say something nice, don’t fake it. Most people can tell if you’re not genuine, so don’t even bother.

  2. Be specific. Try to narrow it down to one thing or action or an outcome that you’re complimenting. If you make it too vague, you’re not giving the receiver any real information.

    You’re also setting them up for a situation where they honestly don’t know how to respond. When you’re specific, then they can process it and respond accordingly.

  3. Mention the impact their actions made on you. Most compliments are about the person giving it, not the person receiving – at least to some degree. Be honest about that and let them know it.

    I love your shoes, and I would love to have a pair like that.

    I think the work you did on that presentation made it so easy for me to understand.

    Those compliments make it easy for the recipient to answer, and it instantly puts them in a good position because they understand what you’re saying.

  4. Focus on their efforts. Whenever you can, compliment someone on the effort they put into something — whether the result was good or not. This shows them that you saw more than just results and lets them know you admire their work whether it’s successful or not.

Now, Off to Practice

You don’t have to tell people you’re practicing your compliments and your compliment responses, but it might be fun to include a few people.

This way, some people you know can surprise you with compliments and force you to react. You can do the same since you’re working on giving them also. When you’re comfortable around people you know, then it’s time to branch out.

Start giving compliments to random people. You can compliment a stranger on their clothing. You can thank the waitstaff for being efficient. You can tell a checker that they’re doing a good job, and you appreciate it.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of opportunities out there. All you have to do is open yourself to seeing them and turning them into compliment situations. Notice how those compliments make others feel and pay attention to how a genuine reaction makes you feel. With deeper understanding, you’ll become a compliment champ, too.

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Kristin Kizer

Kristin Kizer is an award-winning writer, television and documentary producer, and content specialist who has worked on a wide variety of written, broadcast, and electronic publications. A former writer/producer for The Discovery Channel, she is now a freelance writer and delighted to be sharing her talents and time with the wonderful Zippia audience.

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