A Gracious “Thank You”

barn in a field on a sunny summer day

How do you respond when others give you a compliment? Conversely, how do others respond when you give them a compliment? Does it seem awkward? Recently while at a leadership retreat, there was an opportunity to give and receive feedback. I was, once again, reminded of the benefit, value, and difficulty of giving and receiving feedback. It’s both an art and a science. It takes practice. And while it may come more naturally for some, many of us (including me) can improve this critically important skill.

Taking a walk outside for a few minutes and enjoying the pastoral setting, I cleared my head, slowed my breathing and thought about giving and receiving feedback. Many thoughts crossed my brain. Time and space won’t allow me to share them all, at least in this week’s article, but one thought that I’ll share is the difficulty of replying with a gracious “thank you” when someone gives a compliment.

Keen observers with high self-awareness know what I’m talking about. You give someone a compliment and wait for the denials, the posturing, the face contortions and the qualifications. How often do you receive a simple “thank you” in reply? Not often I’m willing to bet. I’m guilty. Are you?

And while not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, I’m willing to bet it has something to do with a combination of pride and a lack of confidence. We don’t believe it’s possible we could be effective, or helpful, or attractive, or fast. We don’t believe we’re beautiful, or compassionate, or impactful. We deflect the compliment. We say it was the team, our wife, or our upbringing. And while all these may be true, we’re really responding with a false sense of humility (pride) or a biased view of our doing or being. We don’t believe we could be handsome. We don’t believe we are hard-working. So we fidget, we posture, and we deflect.

Out of 10 compliments you give, how many times is the response a simple, gracious “thank you”? It’s okay to recognize the contributions of others. You are who you are today because of people and events. Your parents, teachers, spouse, friends, kids, uncle, grandmother and neighbors all played a part in you becoming the person you are today. And your life circumstances have played a part as well. You’re a member of a team, a family, and a marriage. You were the beneficiary of time, gifts, and wisdom from others. But in the end, when someone gives you a compliment, might I suggest you try responding with a gracious “thank you”?

It will feel weird at first. And the person giving the compliment might not know how to respond. Remember, they haven’t experienced people giving a gracious “thank you” any more than you’ve experienced it when you’ve been the one giving the compliment.

Finally, some of you may be thinking that it’s poor manners to say “thank you” right off the bat. For example, if your honey comes walking into the room before you go out for a dinner date and you say, “Baby, you look great!”, some of you might think it would be arrogant to say “thank you” too quickly because it really communicates, “Yeah, I know I do.” And some of you may like to drag it out a bit so you get multiple compliments. “Baby, you look great!” “No I don’t, you’re just saying that.” “No really. You look amazing.” “No, not really.” “Yes, you do. You’re incredible” Have you ever done that? Be honest. I have.

Giving a simple, gracious “thank you” is not easy. But give it a try. It will feel awkward at first and you might receive some bizarre looks initially. Yet if you do it consistently, you’ll find that people won’t hesitate as much to give you a compliment because you make it easy for them. You don’t fight them over whether or not you “look good.” You don’t argue about whether your presentation was great. You don’t say, “You’re just saying that to make me feel better” (which implies that the compliment giver was being insincere).

Try it out the next time someone gives you a compliment. Simply reply with a gracious “thank you.”

Hope you have a great week. Look for opportunities to give appropriate compliments. And remember to give a gracious “thank you” when you’re on the receiving end.

is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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One thought on “A Gracious “Thank You”

  1. Reminds me of the advice – not to be Teflon coated to compliments. Some people won’t let them stick. They try to reflect them with words like – “It was really nothing. Anyone could have done it.” Treat a complement like someone handing you a bag of popcorn. Take it. Say thank you. And enjoy it.

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