Everyone wants to be valued but a lot of people, men especially, bristle when they receive a compliment. And some get downright uncomfortable. According to psychologist and author Guy Winch, Ph.D., how receptive we are to compliments is sometimes a reflection of our self-esteem and deep feelings of self-worth. "Compliments can make people feel uncomfortable because they can contradict their own self-views," says Winch. "Receiving praise from others when we feel negatively about ourselves elicits discomfort because it conflicts with our existing belief system." Culturally, it's a tricky situation. We're eager to hear praise, of course, but simply accepting the appreciation seems conceited. Or might make you feel like you "owe" the person something now. But deflecting the compliment is ungracious and unnecessary. A compliment is essentially a gift—not a bomb to be defused or a ball to be returned—all you need to do is accept it.
Clinical psychologist Randy Paterson Ph.D. explains in The Assertiveness Workbook that in the spectrum of responses given to a compliment, some of the most common are ones that deflect the praise. There's the self-insult (downplaying by offering some self-deprecating retort), the denial (essentially contradicting the person complimenting you) or the boomerang (responding to the praise with praise for others). The takeaway: If you act like you don't deserve credit, then who are other people to disagree with you?
Own your accomplishments, attributes and contributions. You don't have to be a cocky son-of-a-bitch, just self-assured. When someone notices something about you and offers up praise, all you have to do is accept it. Don't insult them by giving reasons why they shouldn't have complimented you, simply say "thank you." Digest it. Let them know that you appreciate it. And if you want to follow up with a question or an explanation, that's fine. But don't let it be a knee-jerk reflex.