What Happens When You Argue With A Compliment


“What a great outfit! You always look so cute and pulled-together!” I offered this compliment to a new-ish friend, a mom to one of my son’s friends. I usually catch her on her way to work and she is an inspiring fashion plate.

Her reply was typical of so many of my friends, “You’re so sweet! But, no, I barely keep things together.”

I wasn't going for "sweet" as much as I was making an observation. Which lead me to wonder, why is it so difficult to accept praise? Why do we argue with compliments and wave off those who are being kind?

Is it embarrassment? A lack of practice? Or a critical spirit?

Whatever the cause, the response impacts more than we think. An example showed up days later in my dining room. The situation went down like this... We had friends over for dinner and I served pork tenderloin. One of the guests gushed about the meat being ”fantastic,” and I responded by saying my piece was rather dry.

Womp. Womp.

Hello Debbie Downer!

Though my comment was both true and accurate, it was still off key. Rather than accepting the compliment, I set up an awkward dynamic.

By arguing with the praise I was inadvertently communicating multiple things:

#1 – My friend doesn’t know great food when he tastes it.

#2 – I’m insecure about my cooking and need more reassurance that what you’re eating is tasty.

#3 – My piece of tenderloin is dry.

At the time, the only option I thought about was #3. Truly, my meat was chalky. What I missed was how my inability to receive the compliment actually put me in a relational hole.

Sure, it wasn't a big deal. We are all still friends.

But I could have done better by saying a simple "Thanks," leaving all other words behind.