The Politics of Compliments

If there is one thing that we all need some serious practice on right now it is how to take a compliment. Research has found that a whopping 67% of Americans don’t know how to take a compliment, and over half of those surveyed said receiving a compliment actually induces more anxiety than flattery the majority of the time. You should also know that our issues with compliments can seriously be limiting to the progress towards goals especially in…you guessed it…your health and fitness.


I know the feeling…sweating just a little bit all over…feeling the word vomit bubbling up…looking around for anything to divert the conversation…someone is about to tell you something nice. You would think a kidnapping was about to occur when really a nice person with a few nice words is trying to tell you what a good job you are doing. While being a beast at your goals, it is incredibly beneficial to be able to take an honest look at how far you have come; to take the time and appreciate that you quite literally have been working your ass off.

Fitness and health are too grounded in goal setting to ignore this epidemic. The better you can get at taking in positive feedback, the better off you’ll be. From the age of 13 (which is when I have decided that you should have some level of self awareness) we are reminded that too big of an ego will get you no where. You know those big headed little tykes have it coming to them for thinking that they deserve that sense of pride over winning the soccer game. When it comes to your health and fitness you need to own it; to understand how hard you have worked, and to take the compliments in stride. No one wants to hear the winner of the Boston Marathon ignore the achievement of winning one of the best known races in the world. It is motivating and inspiring when you can take pride in success.

After reading Randy Peterson’s article on assertiveness I was interested to see the 10 ways we dodge compliments.

  1. Ignore- the receiver straight up doesn’t acknowledge what was said

Giver: “You can really see how toned that strength training has made you.”

Receiver: “Yea why don’t we go get some ice cream.”

  1. Denial-Who me?

Giver: “Way to go on winning the ironman!”

Receiver: “Yea right that was my worst race ever”

  1. Arguing-The oh no she didn’t factor

Giver: “That was really inspiring when you benched 300lbs”

Receiver: “Yea right anyone with half a peck muscle could do that”

  1. Self Insult-Not I sir

Giver: “That’s a really rad pair of yogas”

Receiver: “I look like a cow in these things”

  1. Questioning-Say what?

Giver: “Your fit plan is the best program I have ever done”

Receiver: “Really? You must not workout much…”

  1. Narrowing-Taking a compliment and making it smaller

Giver: “Your squat form is on point”

Receiver: “This smith rack lets anyone look coordinated”

  1. Boomerang-Right back at ya

Giver: “Congratulations on the weight loss!”

Receiver: “Congratulations on being awesome!”

  1. Reassurance-Compliment me more please

Giver: “You will be ready for that marathon in no time.”

Receiver: “You think? I just wasn’t feeling it today”

  1. Devalue-Basically what you said means nothing

Giver: “That TRX seems to have really helped your upper body strength”

Receiver: “I really don’t use my arms in that class”

  10. Credit Transfer-It’s not me it’s you

Giver: “I think those were the best reps so far”

Receiver: “If that Limp Bizkit song hadn’t been on I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do that”

Being aware of these sneaky ways we dodge a few kind motivational words will help to avoid the awkward compliment transaction in the future. Not only does the giver feel like an idiot for offering the compliment, but the receiver feels like an idiot for responding that way. Luckily accepting a compliment is a fairly easy process that can be narrowed down to two words…’thank you.’ With the right balance of pride and modestly any compliment will be no sweat. Motivation and goal setting hinge on affirmative results. Embrace the progress, and revel in your results, and take pride in the compliments that come your way.


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