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The Power of Letting a Compliment Through

A Genuine Compliment is a Powerful Thing

Traditionally in Chinese culture, politeness and modesty are intertwined.  For example, if one gives a compliment to another, such as, “Your painting looks beautiful,” the polite reply might be, “No, no, it’s a mess. I was playing with the brush.” Responding to a compliment with a self-discounting comment is seen as an appropriate gesture to avoid the perception of being arrogant. This gesture might not be taken well in the western world since it can be interpreted negatively.

A simple “thank you” to a compliment might take more than nodding in the western world also. It can become an emotional intelligence challenge. When one gets a compliment, he might hear voice in his head: “Did I really do a good job?” “Am I good enough to deserve it?” “Is this compliment a lip service?” “Can he really know it’s good or not?” These questions can stop one from accepting compliments with ease; even with the appearance of self-confidence. These questions might emerge from self-doubt or not being able to read others accurately, issues that are all in the domain of emotional intelligence.


We all have moments of losing our self-confidence. People that experience self-doubt may be ones who were criticized or bullied a lot in their youth. Without self-trust, we lose our ability to take pleasure in ourselves. The result is caution and giving others power.

A good exercise to work on building self-trust is to give yourself compliments to reinforce the belief that you do matter to others and your contributions are meaningful. Using a journal to record daily reflections will help deepen these affirmations.

Reading Others

This is about the capacity of one’s empathy accuracy. Empathy accuracy includes the ability to clearly read words, facial expressions and body language. When this capacity is highly developed, one can easily understand others and join them with ease.

A good practice to develop the capacity of empathy accuracy is to drop your judgment and assumptions, notice people around you, and sense what they are feeling and thinking through listening and observation. Again, journaling will enhance the impact of this practice.

The next time you say “Thank you” after receiving a compliment, notice how you feel about it and notice the emotions that are triggered. Through self-observation, You will raise your self-awareness when you explore and grow from the experience. After all, it’s very powerful to be able to accept a compliment with a simple “Thank you” and it’s a gift to the people who compliment you.


Business is Personal.

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Julie Keyes
Julie Keyes

Founder & Owner at KeyeStrategies, LLC

Julie is a Certified Exit Planning Adviser and Value Growth Advisor with 30+ years of experience. She works with business owners who seek to understand and maximize their exit and critical transition options.