Grace is not something that comes naturally to me; physical assertions aside, I feel clumsy inside myself. I've often wished I could feel more like a woman; most of the time I feel like a bumbling little girl with lanky features and an awkward stride. As a person with a penchant for self-deprecating remarks, I know all about how not to receive a compliment. However I am learning, albeit slowly, how to accept compliments graciously.

The first step to receiving compliments is understanding that they are gifts. Some gifts are given freely, others because the occasion calls for them. Some gifts are sincere, others are purchased at the last second, bright orange price tag still clinging to the wrapper. It matters little. What's important is that, when someone gives you a gift you say, "Thank you."

"Gosh, those sure are nice shoes."
Thank you.

It does not matter if you agree. Whether you are arguing with the person's assessment, deflecting their kind words, or turning them around to hurt yourself, you are hurting their feelings and creating an awkward situation. Many people decline praise in favor of modesty and humility. This is actually a contradiction: how can you be humble and modest if you're asserting your opinion over someone else's? If a person compliments you, they've gone out of their way to engender good feelings. Refusing their kindness is like a slap in the face; you are dismissing them as imperceptive, insincere, or mistaken. Worse, your rebuttal forces them to either argue with you or withdraw the kindness. Either way, the situation becomes uncomfortable.

"Gosh, those sure are nice shoes."
Oh, these things are gross. Besides, I got them really cheap.
"Oh, um... well, I liked them anyway..."

Even if the other party is not being sincere, by deflecting the compliment you actually help them be rude. Why open yourself up for attack? If someone pays you a backhanded compliment or says something you suspect to be sarcastic, the best way to get them back is to take their compliment as if they'd truly meant it. Either they'll feel stupid for having tried to insult you, or they'll look stupid and try to force the issue. Either way, you win.

"Gosh, those sure are nice shoes."
Wow, thanks!
"Oh, um... I was being sarcastic. Too bad I'm not more witty. D'oh."
Have a nice day!

Remember what your mother said: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. After you've thanked the person, if the compliment has left you feeling uncomfortable, just drop it. Change the subject. Don't feel pressured to return a compliment; insincerity will only compound the awkwardness of the situation. If you do feel comfortable, however, it is absolutely acceptable to take the opportunity to return the words.

"Gosh, those sure are nice shoes."
Thanks! Yours are cool, too.
"Thank you."

Another great strategy is the double-compliment. This is where you praise yourself, and the other person, by agreeing with them. Moreover, they are encouraged to continue complimenting you if they have more to say, because they understand that they've chosen a good subject to discuss. If done with sincerity, most people are delighted to see this sort of reply.

"Gosh, those sure are nice shoes."
Thanks! I just love Italian stitching and I bought them because they show off my toes.
"Yes, they do look nice with your toes. That's a great polish. Do you paint them often?"

The most graceful people take the compliment and elaborate on it. They use the praise as a springboard into conversation and build a rapport around it. They know that, most likely, the other party meant what they said and view it as a golden opportunity. Who knows what might happen?

"Gosh, those sure are nice shoes."
Thanks! I actually bought them on a trip to Rome. Have you ever been?
"No, but I'd love to go some day. Isn't the Pope great?"
Yes, let's get married.

If you're dumb enough to get married based on that last model conversation, then I'm dumb enough to accept invitation to the wedding.

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