Updated: Mar 30, 2021
If you’re usually passive, it’s likely you ignore, deny, refute, or question compliments that others give to you. Learning to accept compliments will allow you to feel better about yourself. Accepting a compliment graciously allow the person delivering the compliment to feel good.
Do you find it difficult to accept compliments?
One of these barriers may be preventing you from accepting such positive feedback:
• Low-self esteem. When a compliment is in conflict with your self-image, you might be confused about how to handle it. The other person might know something that you can’t see for yourself.
• A feeling of debt. You don’t owe anyone anything for giving you a compliment other than “thank you.”
• Fear of conceit. Do you feel conceited when accepting a compliment? Receiving a compliment is actually emotionally healthy. This one was very much my reason. I was raised to be humble, that we really don't excel in anything we just get by. I don't think that was ever the real intent but it was how I perceived what I was learning. So when people would give me compliments I just brushed them off. It wasn't until I was much older that I learned how to accept compliments and to even wear them. This works for both compliments and also criticism. If you need to own, do so and if you don't like that, then make changes.
• Need for reciprocation. Receiving a compliment doesn’t require that you give one, too. It also doesn’t mean you have to insult yourself to restore the balance of the universe.
Make an effort to receive positive feedback without feeling the need to provide anything in return. Allow others to say nice things about you or the things that you’ve done. You deserve it, so enjoy it.
Giving Positive Feedback
It’s important to be able to openly give compliments, too. If you can’t give positive feedback, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to give constructive criticism either. Others are thankful when you express your appreciation for something nice they said or did.
If you’re passive, you might believe that others don’t value your opinion. Why not let them decide if your opinion is relevant? Plus you don't know what anyone else is going through and you never know how much they might value what you say to them. Be sure they know the real you!
If you’re aggressive, you might feel like you’re giving the other person the upper hand if you say something nice to them.
Passive-aggressive? Your inclination is to get what you want by making others feel bad. Giving a compliment might be a challenge.
Consider the benefits of positive feedback:
• Giving and receiving compliments and support are one of the great benefits of being human. Why miss out on the good stuff? If you can give sincere compliments, you’ll be better able to receive them.
• You strengthen existing relationships and create new relationships. Providing positive feedback is an important part of healthy interactions and bonding.
• Giving compliments is an important teaching tool. Feedback is an important part of learning new skills.
There are many reasons to give positive feedback. It helps you, too. Others will have more positive feelings toward you. You’ll also be able to enjoy being assertive and making someone feel good about themselves.
There can be obstacles to giving compliments to others, however. It’s likely that at least one of the following applies to you.
Obstacles to providing positive feedback:
• You’re too focused on the negative to notice the positive. Perhaps you only notice the things that bother you. If that’s the case, you’re missing out on a lot of positives.
• Expecting too much. Do people have to be perfect before you’re willing to acknowledge it? Is that fair to either of you?
• Low self-esteem. Do you fear that giving a compliment widens the gap between you and the other person? It’s okay to raise people up. If anything, it will make the other person feel appreciative toward you.
For the next week, try to give one sincere compliment each day. Look for things to compliment. The subtle shift in your attention can do wonders for your mood, too. One compliment a day can add a lot to your ability to be assertive.
Accepting Negative Feedback
Accepting negative feedback is hard, no matter what your natural communication style might be. However, even negative feedback can be valuable. You might learn something that you can apply to enhance your performance in an area of your life. With practice, you can learn to accept criticism without losing your cool.
There are several reasons not to take criticism personally:
1. The source of the criticism may be unrealistic. There are those that have unrealistic expectations and anything less is unacceptable. That doesn’t mean you didn’t do well. It means you’re being judged unfairly.
2. The source of the criticism may be in a bad mood. We’ve all been terse with a friend or family member due to fatigue, illness, or experiencing a bad mood. It happens to all of us. Why take it personally? This goes to my earlier point of being sure to evaluate what you take with you. If it's not relevant just let it go.
3. The source of the criticism may be jealous. Jealousy is a common emotion. The person providing negative feedback may be envious of how well you did something. Or they may be jealous of some other aspect of your life.
4. You are demonstrating qualities that the critic dislikes in themselves. It’s common to be annoyed when you see characteristics in others that you consider to be flaws in yourself. It’s a bit like a slap in the face.
There are many other reasons why criticism may be at least partially invalid. Keep that in mind when someone tells you something that initially feels critical.
How to deal with criticism:
1. Listen. Sometimes a critique starts out a little rough but works out in the end. Avoid jumping to conclusions until you’ve heard everything the other person has to say.
2. Clarify. Avoid making assumptions. If anything is unclear, ask an appropriate question and get clarification.
3. Avoid getting even. It’s natural to want to level the playing field by returning an insult or criticism. Avoid putting the focus back on the other person too quickly.
4. Be reasonable. It’s entirely possible that the other person has the best of intentions. It’s easy to become overly defensive.
5. Agree with the part that you believe to be accurate. If you’re in trouble for paying the bills late, agree that you made an error. Apologize if the situation calls for it. If appropriate, offer a solution. Thank them for speaking up.
6. Listen to the response. At this point, both parties are often in a position to have a constructive conversation.
Receiving negative feedback can be challenging, but it’s often the most important feedback you can receive. It’s nice to be told how well you did something, but you don’t learn anything. Constructive criticism can be a gift.
“I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.”
- Johannes Kepler
Giving Constructive Negative Feedback
For those with passive tendencies, giving constructive feedback can be much more challenging than receiving it. Negative feedback is crucial to everyone. It’s very difficult to improve in any part of life without receiving and utilizing negative feedback.
You may encounter these challenges when trying to provide criticism:
1. Discomfort. This is the first obstacle that must be overcome in order to provide constructive feedback. But understand that many situations become more enjoyable if you’ll voice your concerns. You husband might gladly pick up his dirty clothes if he knows it’s an issue.
2. Being too aggressive. It’s common to wait too long to provide corrective feedback. If you wait until you’re enraged to finally speak up, you might say something you’ll regret. Saying, “It bothers me when you’re late and don’t call” is quite different from, “Why can’t you just call when you’re going to be late? What’s wrong with you? You’re so inconsiderate.”