Dear Evie+Sarah: I’ve got this new friend who I really like, except for the fact that she’s constantly offering compliments that include a put-down of herself. She’ll say, “You look so nice today…and look at me, with my husband’s old sweatshirt on.” Or the first time she came to my house, she commented on how clean and tidy it was, then immediately told me how messy hers is.
Every time she does this, I’m not sure how to respond. Do I just say thank you or do I have to try to reassure her? It feels weird to constantly be boosting up someone I barely know! What would you do? —Reluctant Cheerleader
Dear Reluctant Cheerleader:
I had a friend in college who totally amazed me because every time I gave her a compliment, she would look at me, smile genuinely, and then say, “Thank you.” The first time she did it, I was stunned. She actually owned what I said to her and accepted the compliment.
When was the last time you did that? Like seriously, just said thank you.
Don’t feel like you have to give your friend a compliment back. And don’t you dare qualify the compliment yourself…you know, like your friend is doing. But it’s okay to give a little grace too. I mean, haven’t we all done this? Like when someone says, “That dress looks great on you!” and you say, “I have to lose 5 lbs!” Um…non-sequitor anyone? That totally doesn’t make sense!
And yet we do it all the time, which makes you wonder,
Why do women have such a hard time accepting a compliment?
Is it because we want to hear more about how great we are, or are we truly so insecure that we need to qualify every nice thing that’s thrown our way? (We’re totally going to delve into this question in an upcoming episode of our podcast, Best Friend Banter, so stay tuned!!) Now, if your best friend is having an off-day, it’s definitely your job to be her cheerleader! But if an acquaintance is fishing for a compliment, or talking down about herself, ignore it. Remember that the only time you truly need to answer is when she’s asking you a direct question. Otherwise, it is okay to stay silent. She’ll get the hint.
Have a question of your own? Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll feature our advice on your quandary here!