CG #36 – Some People Can’t Take a Compliment – True or False?

You:  Bursting with appreciation and gratitude you want to share.  Them: Backing away slowly as you rave on and on.  It’s fast and easy to learn how to give praise that the recipient find irresistible.

 Word Count: 697

Reading Time:  2.2 minutes


“Some people just can’t take a compliment!”  My friend, Sarah, is telling me about a co-worker who will not accept her appreciation.

“What did you say to him?”

“That I appreciate how hard he’s working to get this done.  He looked at me like I was crazy!  Hey – why are you flinching?”

“Because, for me, that’s the worst compliment ever.”

“But it’s true!”

“So what?  Look, when the result I’m after requires that I work hard, I do.  It’s automatic.   It feels silly to be complimented on something that happens naturally.”

“It does?  What should I have said?”

“Praise me for what I accomplish, not who I am.  Praise is premature until I’ve gotten it done.  Use the words ‘genius’ or ‘brilliant.’  That’s how I know you get it – that you get me.”

Here are some phrases you can use for the accomplishment-focused

  • “How did you get all that done across 3 times zones and in only 2 days? I’m in awe of all you were able to accomplish.
  • “The solution you came up with was brilliant. I’ve been telling everyone I know what a genius you are.”
  • “I’ve never seen anyone get a group angry people to cooperate like that. They were like old buddies by he time you got through with them. Excellent, excellent job.”[/li] [/list]


“I get it.” my friend said.  “And I can’t wait to try it.  But Liz, I would hate to hear that.  I want to be appreciated for who I am.  I want encouragement and recognition along the way.   Is that so wrong?”

“It’s not wrong at all!  About half the population thinks like you do.”

“What phrases do you suggest for people like me?”

“You tell me.  How should I appreciate you?”

“I want people to notice the attention and caring I bring to everything.  I think the excellent result happens naturally because I consistent bringing my best self to work..  I want to be encouraged as I do things; waiting to the end is too late for me.”   I want to feel welcome – like you are glad I’m here.  When you appreciate the effect of my character and caring on others, it renews me, and I dig in with renewed gusto.

“And the phrases?”

Here are some phrases you can use for the contribution focused:

  • I love going to your meetings! I know I’ll walk away feeling valued for what I bring, and we’ll make steady progress.
  • I’m so happy that we’re working together on this project. I know we’re going to do really good work together, and that it will have your special touches.”
  •  I appreciate that there are always fresh flowers on your desk and in the break room. It lifts my spirits to see them.

How can you tell which type they are?

Watch their eyes.   When praise hits home, there is no hiding it.  Their eyes will light up, their face will soften, their entire body will relax.  If you are talking on the phone, their voice will take on more overtones as the tension leaves their face.  You’ll hear slower, more overtone-rich speech.

From their Myers-Briggs type.  Those who prefer Feeling respond best to a Contribution Focus; those who prefer Thinking, to an Accomplishment Focus.  Take this as a working hypothesis and watch their response.

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