How to Give Compliments to People Who Won’t Take Them

By Kara Reynolds | Mar 7, 2017

My husband is the best, but if there’s one thing he’s terrible at, it’s taking a compliment. He’ll try to downplay it, give someone else the credit. If all else fails, he just goes completely silent and blushes. Now, I hate making him uncomfortable, but I want him to see how amazing he is and how much I appreciate him. So I changed my methods, and now he accepts compliments a lot better —  mostly. Have a difficult compliment-taker in your life? Here’s how to give them compliments.

Be Genuine

If you’re being fake, people can definitely tell, especially when they’re someone you’re really close to. They’re going to be able to see it in your eyes and hear it in your voice if you’re being sincere. Try not to be extremely blunt, because that’s almost definitely going to make them uncomfortable. Instead, maybe offer them a chance to respond instead of sitting in silence or just saying thank you. This also shows genuine interest and that you want to know more about them. If you like their shirt, ask where they got it. If they wrote an awesome story or paper, ask where they got the idea or why they chose that topic. If I see my husband looking especially nice for work that day, I say he looks sharp and ask him if something important is happening. This lets him talk about work a bit instead of just focusing on the compliment and not knowing what to say, but I still get to tell him he’s looking good.

Be Positive Around Them

If you’re constantly putting other people down behind their backs, people are going to be less likely to believe your compliments. If I came home to my husband all the time and talked about how terrible my friends or coworkers were that day, he’d never believe anything positive I told him. Not only can talking about people ruin your relationship with them if they find out what you’re saying, but it can also ruin your relationship with the people you’re saying it to. They’re not going to have faith in what you say anymore, and that’s heartbreaking. Of course I vent my frustrations to my husband, but I’m not going to be petty and purposefully put people down.

Try to Recognize Why They Aren’t Accepting

There are a variety of reasons why they aren’t good at taking compliments. Low self-esteem is a big one. You may think you’re doing a good thing and trying to boost their self-esteem, but it’s most likely making them uncomfortable. People want to confirm their perceptions of themselves. If we get a positive compliment but don’t think that highly of ourselves, we reject the information. Now, I know low self-esteem is not a problem my husband has. But he is from a very different culture than I am. While I was born and raised in the USA, he spent the first decade of his life in China. They’re taught to show modesty and humility by downplaying the compliment. Other cultures might have very different customs when it comes to compliments. Unfortunately, women are also more likely to be terrible at getting compliments. Society still teaches women to be modest and submissive, and it’s ingrained at a young age. Women are also still notorious for putting each other down, so we’re less likely to accept a compliment from other women than we are from a man. Take all these things into consideration when you give a compliment. That way, you can maybe change the wording to cater to them so they’re more likely to accept it. At the very least, you won’t be as offended if they still deflect.

Start Calling Them out — in a Nice Way, of Course

If you’ve tried everything and they’re still consistently rejecting compliments, say something. Let them know you’ve noticed they keep deflecting compliments and ask why. They might not even realize they’re doing it. This is what I eventually had to do with my husband. It hurt that I would try and say something nice to make his day and he would barely respond. I had to make that effort to understand where all this was coming from and why he couldn’t appreciate what I was saying. Reassure them that you wouldn’t be saying these things unless you absolutely mean them. Tell them it hurts your feelings when they reject what you’re trying to express to them. They probably don’t think this has any impact on you. It’s disheartening having your compliments deflected. And you want to make sure the people in your life know your compliments are legit. Use these tips to try and understand them better so you can tell them how great they are!

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