how to accept a compliment

How to Accept a Compliment Like A Gentleman & What Mistakes To Avoid

Once you start dressing up, you’ll notice that people will compliment you much more often, and that is a good thing. However, accepting a compliment can be awkward. Don’t spoil it! In today’s guide, we discuss how not to reply to a compliment, how to accept it like a gentleman, and how to give one in return.

Your colleagues at work, random strangers, or even your mom are much more likely to say something flattering about you when you look nice. The problem is, people often feel uncomfortable when they are complimented. It sometimes even makes them feel modest, guilty, or embarrassed. It can also make you feel like an impostor or you might start to read things into it, like “What is he really saying here?” or “What does he want from me?”

As a consequence, people often reply to a compliment in a way that makes the whole situation awkward. Basically, it turns something positive to something negative. In the worst case scenario, it makes you look like a jerk.

How Not To Reply To A Compliment

When given a compliment, be polite and it's never the time to correct them for using incorrect terms

When given a compliment, be polite. It’s never the time to correct them for using incorrect terms.

1. First of all, don’t correct people

Compliment: “Nice suit, man!”

Your response: “Well, it’s actually a sport coat.”

It makes you look like a jerk. Of course, a suit is different from a sport coat, but this person was just trying to be nice and it’s not the time to educate or correct them.

Single Breasted Blazer with popover shirt, cotton pocket square, khakis and brown tassel loafers

Single Breasted Blazer with popover shirt, cotton pocket square, khakis and brown tassel loafers

2. Resist the urge to escape

Compliment: “I love your….”

You get uncomfortable and interrupt them and say “Oh, got to go. Sorry.”

That’s a bad thing. It’s just awkward and it makes them feel like they said something wrong and in fact, something so bad that you ran from them.

Denying a compliment is never appropriate

Denying a compliment is never appropriate

3. Denial

Compliment: “Hey, great haircut!”

Your response: “Oh no, I really hate that and I want to get rid of it.”

It makes them feel like they have bad taste. On top of that, it also shows that you don’t have tact.

4. Deflecting a compliment

Compliment: “Hey, I really like your tie a lot!”

Your response: “Oh no, yours is even better!”

It seems made up on the spot and disingenuous because you just said exactly the same thing that they said to you. Nobody’s going to believe you.

Avoid mouthy explanations, you will make them wish they didn't say anything at all

Avoid mouthy explanations, you will make them wish they didn’t say anything at all

5. Don’t explain or over-explain

Compliment: “Man, I love those shoes.”

Your response: ” Well actually, I got them from my mom and she always says women like nice shoes and I really hope I could pick up nice girls in them.”

Once you say that, people feel like it’s an overshare. They’ll think you’re an insecure person and they will certainly not compliment you again.

6. Don’t brag

Compliment: “Nice tie, bro!”

Your response: “Yeah, it’s from Hermes, it cost me $200. I have the entire collection at home.”

This is probably the biggest jerk move you can make, because you just brag about yourself and how awesome you are.

Dark Navy Suit with striped tie and TV fold pocket square

Dark Navy Suit with striped tie and TV fold pocket square

7. Never cheapen a compliment

Compliment: “Oh, this is an interesting pocket square!”

Your response: “Oh no, it’s nothing special! I just bought them for 50 cents at a thrift store next door.”

Basically, what you’re saying is the other person has cheap taste, and who wants to hear that?

8. Don’t forfeit

Let’s go back to the pocket square example.

It’s like “Oh no, it’s nothing special. Here! It’ll look much better on you, you want it?” Just because someone compliments you doesn’t mean they want it for themselves. Furthermore, you told them something negative about the item and then want to give it to them. This shows them how much you appreciate them, which is very little.

So now that we have all these bad examples, how do you accept a compliment like a gentleman?

There's no need to be embarrassed, just relax and smile

There’s no need to be embarrassed, just relax and smile

1. Relax

Someone is just trying to be nice and says something nice to you, that’s it. Don’t try to interpret things at all. Simply smile and say thank you. That’s really all there is to it. It’s particularly true if a stranger compliments you and you’ll probably never see them again and that’s okay.  Just go along and smile.

On the other hand, if it’s a compliment from someone you see regularly, again, do not deflect and just say something nice about them.

So, to recap: a “thank you” and a smile is ALL YOU NEED! No explanation, elaboration, or detail needed.

Paying attention is key to giving a sincere compliment

Paying attention is key to giving a sincere compliment

2. Observe and reciprocate

Over the next week or two, if you find something that’s truly special and unique about them, you can compliment them. Don’t say “You look great today!” because that’s generic, they’ve heard it a thousand times, and they don’t believe you. It’s also very uncreative.

3. Compliment their actions

If you pay attention, offer a compliment on a job they did well, such as food they cooked or something else they are interested in. It shows them that you paid attention to them and said something meaningful.

Should you compliment someone on their looks? Well, that depends.

Complimenting someone shows that you appreciate something about them

Complimenting someone shows that you appreciate something about them

Don’t ever compliment their physical features

It backfires and catcalling, of course, is not a compliment. On the other hand, let’s say someone is really into their clothes and you saw that they got a new pair of heels, you can, of course, remark on them because they will likely be flattered to hear they got a good pair of shoes that you like.


Bottomline is, to accept a compliment only requires a smile and a “thank you.” In order to give a great compliment back, you have to pay attention! So whenever you pay a compliment, it’s essential that it’s genuine. Otherwise, your body language and the way you say it will communicate that it’s not true, and then it really backfires on you.

How to Accept a Compliment Like A Gentleman & What Mistakes To Avoid
Article Name
How to Accept a Compliment Like A Gentleman & What Mistakes To Avoid
Learn how not to reply to a compliment, how to accept it like a gentleman, and how to give a genuine one in return.
Gentleman's Gazette
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37 replies
  1. The Batman says:

    Misleading title. Should have been called “how to NOT accept a complement like a gentlemen.”

    You never gave us your idea of the proper way to accept a complement.

    So… what is it?

    I find it is best to take the same approach towards complements as you would with shoes…. understated but pleasant. Just a direct look into the person’s eyes, a warm small, and a “thank you very much.” Or, if you want to get really fancy, add the “why” so it becomes “Why, thank you very much.”

    • PG says:

      The Batman must have had to jump in the batmobile to save the day before he could finish watching the video and/or reading the article. 🙂

      • Tim says:

        Ok, so let’s break this down…. check it….

        1) I saw no disclaimer stating the article was incomplete. So it is perfectly understandable that I perused the article to discern whether or not there was anything of value in the video. Then I read the article to discern whether or not I missed anything…. because I did not find the desired “how to accept complements” examples. Instead, I found 4 awkwardly divided, I don’t know… could they be called tips? I don’t know if you could even call them that. At best, they are bland platitudes that could apply to almost any situation. “Relax.” Seriously?

        2) As I noted above, I did read the article. Nothing important to see here. Move along.

        3) The latest incarnation of the dreaded Joker is particularly disturbing. Please remember that before you joke about what I do.

        That is all.

  2. Chas M says:

    A true gentleman NEVER uses vulgarities such as are written into this article.
    Surely you can do better, sir.

  3. Gerd Appelhans says:

    Interesting article, with good advice. I was very surprised by the coarse language, though, as it seems out of place not only on this site (with so much advice on civility and manners) overall, but in this article (on gentlemanly behavior) in particular. I did not expect this from Sven and his collaborators.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Dear Gerd, thanks for the feedback. I thought the language was appropriate to hit home the point. There is a difference between calling someone something, or making a point so people understand how people feel about their. I hope it hit home what not to do. Could I have said :”makes you unpleasant and contemptible”? Yes. Would it have achieved the same effect? I doubt it.
      That aside, rest assured, it was an exception to the rule.

  4. Tony Valant says:

    Mr. Schneider, I would like to compliment you on your topic selection. There certainly is an interesting reaction when a compliment comes our way, despite the fact that we really desire and value them. In the US, it seems that verbal “put downs” are a common way for men to “joke” with one another, but a sincere compliment is almost foreign to our culture. Because it has become so rare, any form of compliment is often perceived as insincere.

    I too was once one who would not compliment another man. Then I heard a Pastor preach about this very subject. He said, “When someone compliments you, say “thank you”. If you feel like saying more, then add, “That encourages me”.” Once I began using this simple and sincere technique, I found myself offering more compliments to others. Now I don’t care that I may be perceived as insincere, I know that I am. Who knows, maybe they simply have not heard my preacher or read your blog. Keep up the good work.

    • Matt D says:

      Tony Valant,

      Absolutely true. Worse, oftentimes we Americans have become so accustomed to ‘compliments’ ( only to be followed up with a “witty” put down ) I’d come to DREAD them. Even across the room, the concourse or cube farm you can see perfect gentlemen cringing and bracing for “the next shoe to drop”.

      Sadly, most heteros seem to think the only place a simple, innocent and sincere compliment can go from there is ( vulgarity warning! ) a stall in the mens room? And for the thousands of wonderful people I’ve met over 57 years, only handful of crude come on’s. So why are so many of us uptight about it? I’ll be honest, fear of the [largely] Unreal, left me in a state of sheer panic! And for what..?

      The one thing I wish Sven would at least touch on, compliments from [unattached] females in your wife’s presence! Us Bruce Willis types get that QUITE a bit. Like when they pretend to ask ‘directions’ THEN compliment you?

  5. Mark L says:

    Do gentlemen use vulgar language at any time? Particular in the written word? I think you may have forgotten yourself for a moment or perhaps felt rushed to get something out.
    Nevertheless, the topic is helpful as I have struggled to take compliments well. I like the idea of the planned return compliment. Too often I fumble my “Thank you” and I realize I should work on that. I have also found that a safe compliment toward the opposite sex is on an accessory or piece of jewelry.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Mark, Bascially this is a transcript of the video, and yes, sometimes it is important to use even vulgar words to make a point. Of course, it only works if you hardly ever use them otherwise.

  6. Mark Hewitt says:

    Dear Raphael ,
    Another nice piece of writing .
    As a young man a came into contact with a great many fine people ; as I still do .
    One day a lovely woman said to me to avoid calling myself a gentleman ; ” let some one do it for you ”
    Wise words indeed,

  7. Christoff says:

    I love it! Great video. I can’t believe I’ve never heard you swear but you use prick and asshole in this one! Made me laugh!

  8. Mr Collins says:


    I feel I have gained a good piece of knowledge from both the article and the video, thank you for helping me take a step back to look at the way I receive compliments…after all a gentleman is never superior to his fellow man, only superior to his former self.

    With regards to the (apparently) controversial use of language in your video, I feel it helps illustrate your point. Coarse language is really only to be used in time of passion, by which I mean when someone feels passionately about something. It could be as simple as stubbing your toe, but I feel it’s a culmination of your views on a subject and I understand that you feel passionately about this.

    Thank you again for another enjoyable topic, I look forward to the next.

    Kind regards,

    J Collins

  9. Lowell Davis says:

    Interesting that you would include a picture of Mob hitman Bugsy Siegel and his girlfriend Virginia Hill, in section of complimenting someone on their appearance… They are, of course, very nicely dressed!

  10. Terry says:

    Fantastic and entertaining video and article. I think the language used was quite appropriate.

    When someone offers you a compliment, they’re giving you a gift. When you receive that gift with grace, a thank you and smile, the giver feels good. If you do any different than that, you’re teaching others not to give you that gift. Just receive and enjoy!

  11. Art says:

    Excellent advice Sven. Easily one of the better videos I have seen on this subject.
    This is something many of us men struggle with. But like many things in life it comes with age and or maturity.
    Suggestion for a future video, How to accept a gift.

  12. Menashe Michael Bovit says:

    I always enjoy your very informative entries. Like some others I don’t think the crude language added anything positive to your video and perhaps detracted from or distracted from the message. Otherwise a valuable and enlightening piece that may be of assistance to those who have just recently begun to dress as a gentleman. As for returning a compliment I’ll share an example. Recently I attended a meeting of some 30 community leaders. It’s summer and besides another gentleman and myself the other men attending were all dressed very shabbily. Shorts and t-shirts dominated and a few fellows wore nasty looking, ill fitting slacks with a rumpled blazer sans tie. I was dressed in a tan suit and lilac shirt with a nice tie and pocket square, tie bar and Panama hat. A mature woman sitting next to me gave me a very generous compliment on my appearance. As were most of the women attending she had clearly made an effort to look nice for this meeting. So I responded to her, thank you, you are so kind and you are quite lovely today yourself. She responded with a broad sincere smile to my sincere reply.

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