Are you suspicious of compliments?

Do you like getting compliments? Perhaps they make you glow with pride? Or do you find them embarrassing and bat them away? Perhaps you are even at times suspicious, and think the giver has an agenda?


When people reject or even ridicule compliments, it is usually due to a sense of low self-esteem. Some individuals are embarrassed by praise, perhaps feeling they don’t deserve it, or that it sounds arrogant to accept the compliment. Others may go further and suspect the giver is up to something, that he or she has an ulterior motive. All these reactions say more about the receiver than they do about the giver.

If you ignore or deride a compliment, it can adversely affect you and the person who gave it to you, now and in the longer term. After all, when you put down a compliment it is not only a symptom of low self-esteem but lowers it even further. 

It is also disconcerting to the giver who has given it in good faith and now finds their judgement being questioned. Reject a compliment and you set yourself up – people may be reluctant to congratulate or commend you in the future. 

Genuinely said compliments

Have you ever had any of these compliments? 

  • 'Excellent presentation! Congratulations.'
  • 'It was so kind and generous of you to give up your ticket when you were so keen to go yourself.'
  • 'I do like what you’re wearing. It really suits you.'
  • ‘I had a wonderful evening. Thank you so much.’
  • 'Fantastic food! How do you do it when you’ve been at work all day?'

What other compliments have you had?

Responses to compliments

There are two types of responses that will help neither you nor the giver.

Aggressive (direct and indirect) 

  • ‘Stop trying to flatter me.’
  • ‘Don’t be silly.’
  • ‘Don’t give me that.'
  • ‘Who are you kidding?’
  • Changes the subject sharply.
  • Avoids eye contact and can ignore the compliment.
  • Makes a joke at the other person’s expense.
  • ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about’ (belittling the other person).
  • ‘What are you after then?’ (suspicious, accusing).


  • ‘I don’t think so’ (self-put-down).
  • 'It was nothing' (self-put-down).
  • Blush and stare at the floor.
  • ‘It was Joe’s doing. He helped me write it’ (giving away all credit even though some belongs to you).
  • ‘Well, it’s not surprising; I spent three weeks preparing it’ (self-put-down, qualifying achievement by giving an explanation).
  • ‘It was just a fluke’ (self-put-down).
  • 'Oh this? I bought it in a charity shop for a fiver' (minimising).
  • ‘Not half as good as yours last week’ (self-put-down by comparison with the other person).

So what can you do differently?

Firstly, be positive, be courteous and be respectful to yourself and to others. It is far more helpful to accept the compliment and treat the compliment giver as being genuine by accepting it assertively.

Assertive responses include:

  • ‘Thank you, I'm really pleased you’ve told me.’  
  • ‘Thanks for telling me. It’s encouraging to know.’
  • Blush and say, ‘I feel embarrassed but I’m very glad you’ve told me.’
  • ‘Thanks. I was pleased too.’
  • ‘Thanks. I’m pleased you thought so. I’d be glad to know precisely what you thought went well so that I can build on it for next time.’
  • ‘Thanks so much. I didn’t even realise.'

In summary...

Ask yourself: how would you feel if you gave someone a compliment and they threw it straight back in your face? Would that be the last compliment you give them?

Enjoy your compliments and allow them to build your self-worth and provide valuable feedback for the future.

And finally, don’t forget to give them too. 

Accepting compliments can be the first step to building your self-esteem. Looking for more support? Contact Lucy below or use our search tool to connect with a coach today

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, NW11
Written by Lucy Seifert, Life Coach London
London, NW11

Our personal challenges can affect us at home, work and in our relationships. My 25 years of coaching and training experience help you build confidence and design strategies to make positive changes. You’ll find that I have a warm coaching style, with integrity and professionalism. Also, I’ve authored five books about coaching and assertiveness.

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