Business Etiquette: How to Accept a Professional Compliment

As amazing as it feels to be recognized for a professional achievement, many of us feel uncomfortable during our moment in the spotlight. We often believe that the only polite response to a public congratulatory statement, or even a private compliment, is denial, or at a minimum, downplaying our success. Accepting professional praise doesn't have to be awkward. Here are some tips for receiving an honor with grace and humility.
  • Keep it simple. The proper response to any compliment is a simple "thank you". Rather than a verbal rebuke ("It was really nothing..." or, "No, it was nothing, stop!"), respond with sincere gratitude for the kind words of praise. Don't deny the compliment, argue its legitimacy, or insult the other person by implying you don't deserve the credit. Just as it would be bad etiquette to refuse a handshake, it's also impolite to dismiss the other person's observation.
  • Show your gratitude. An appropriate response can include any genuine display of gratitude, whether it's extending your arms for a friendly hug (under the right circumstances), remarking how much the compliment means to you, or a confident handshake expressing sincerity and respect.
  • Swap denials for modest comments. In reality, it's sometimes hard to just say "thank you" and leave it at that. If you feel like you need to say more, you can add in some neutral statements that honor your desire to not appear arrogant yet don't contradict the compliment. Follow "thank you" with phrases such as, "I really enjoyed working on this project" or, "It was challenging but it all came together."
  • Share the spotlight. It's never appropriate to hog all the credit. If you led a team effort, by all means, accept the accolade and don't downplay your role. But if it was truly a group effort, be sure to also acknowledge the contributions of your team. If your recognition comes in the form of a public ceremony, brush up on a few more tips to commemorate the moment with poise.
  • Smile. You may feel ill at ease in front of a large group of people when someone is acknowledging you with a compliment or gift, but don't shy away from making direct eye contact with the person speaking, giving them an authentic smile and quietly mouthing a word of thanks.
  • Shake hands like a star. If you are thanked or congratulated on a stage, extend your left hand to accept the gift or award while reaching out with your right hand to shake hands with the presenter.
  • Get ready for your photo opp. When being photographed while receiving an award, be mindful that the photographer has a job to do. Pause and wait for the picture to be taken before jumping out of the frame of the camera lens. This is key to avoiding your backside or an out of focus picture on the company Facebook page.
  • Motion to the team. Physically reach our your hands towards those in the audience that helped you achieve your success, signaling with your body language that you are including them in your accolades, mouthing "thank you" as you make eye contact. When possible, acknowledge their joint efforts in words.

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