Neurotypicals Take Note – Accepting Compliments


compliment image

What do you say…?

How often has someone said that to you? Or how often have you said it to your student or child? The problem is, the answer is a lot more complicated than just “Thank you.”

Social conventions are so complex, and autistic folk are not the only ones who need tips and practice. These are social lessons that neurotypical folk could benefit from!

Neurotypicals need help accepting compliments

As evidenced by Jacqueline Whitmore’s  How to Gracefully Accept a Compliment – written for a presumably neurotypical audience – accepting a compliment is complex. She acknowledges,

Most people love to be noticed, but few know how to accept a compliment gracefully

Rectangle 1Some people respond too humbly. They deflect the compliment, or say things like “it was nothing.” They may pass the compliment on to others (“I didn’t do much – it was a team effort”).

This may appear kind—after all, it avoids bragging—but it may go too far. When someone gives a compliment, they generally want to recognize another’s accomplishments. So it’s jarring if someone essentially denies that they were responsible for the accomplishments.

Rectangle 1 CopyAnd then other people respond too boastfully. They are quick to accept the compliment and may even add on to the list of their accomplishments. Sometimes they go into detail about how hard they worked.

This usually bothers people, too. It can make the complimenter feel like the other person thinks that they’re better than them.

A complicated skill for all

Because neurotypicals clearly don’t do this complimenting thing all that well, they oversimplify it when addressing it with children with ASD.

A colleague of mine once made a nice comment about the shirt that a student of hers was wearing. The student was on the autism spectrum, and at first glance the exchange seems quite ordinary—

“I like your shirt!”

“Thanks, I like your earrings.”

The only problem: she wasn’t wearing earrings.

What happened? An adult must have taught this young man something like, when someone compliments you, say thank you and compliment them back. He probably got the added tip from a teacher, women like when people compliment their jewelry.

This again speaks to the need for neurotypical professionals working with folks with ASD to accept that they don’t have all the answers about the social world.

It’s about balance

What the advice comes down to is yet another balance, this time between humility and boasting. And it’s one that all people—autistic and neurotypical alike—could be better at.


5 thoughts on “Neurotypicals Take Note – Accepting Compliments

  1. Love this post! Such an important point, highlighting how complex “social” is, and how we can all benefit from stepping back and considering the balance. Keep them coming, Aaron!


  2. Pingback: Humblebraggarts: Pick a side | Balance Challenge

  3. I have never been good at accepting compliments because I view them with suspicion, as in: “Is there something you want from me? ” or “You’re just saying that to try and make me feel better.” Being made a mockery of doesn’t help matters. Insults can be easier to accept because there are only so many times you can be made to feel like a nothing before you start to believe it. Unfortunately these insults get filed away in my memory until I can reflect them back onto those who bullied me.
    After all, revenge is a dish best served cold. Compliments end up being shot down too, because of my trust issues (“How can I believe that you really like me?”) or I say
    nothing. I don’t want to end up hurt or taken advantage of. Better to be alone for all the right reasons than with a random someone for all the wrong ones. Besides, I’m too complicated and challenging for any man to deal with.


  4. I don’t know you, but I think that you are way better than you think of yourself!! Crush the negative self talk :). Kind regards, a stranger that red your comment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s