Sometimes I'll be talking with someone who will slip an "indirect" compliment into the conversation. Two examples:

(1) I was visiting my doctor for a somewhat "childish" (for lack of a better word) medical problem -- something that some people would associate with immaturity. At one point, we had this exchange:

Me: [Says something rather polite]

Doctor: You know, my [medical issue I'm there for] patients are always the most mature ones.

(2) This one is a little fuzzy and I might be misremembering, but it's still a good example. I was in my high school's computer programming club, and I was talking with the club adviser (who was also the only CS teacher at the school) about something I'd coded.

Me: It was a little easier than I thought it would be. [Note: This was only intended as a comment about my prediction of how hard it would be, not about my skill level.]

Adviser: [Smiling] Well, some people just have a natural gift for this sort of thing.

In both of these examples, I responded by laughing awkwardly, perhaps muttering "thanks", and looking around the room until the conversation rebooted. I feel that that was somewhat rude, as though I rejected their compliments. However, the only alternatives I see are:

(a) Accept the compliment as I would any other, with a phrase like "thanks, I try". This feels clumsy to me, because all the other person technically said was a neutral comment ("some people do this, some people do that") and I would be treating it like a comment about me in particular.

(b) Verbally acknowledge that "You have complimented me", and then move on to a normal reply to the compliment. This feels wrong as well, because stating "you have complimented me" (or worse, repeating a part of the compliment) would, I think, come off as bragging.

Should I have somehow acknowledged that the thing they said was intended as a compliment at me? If so, how? What is the gracious way to accept compliments like these?

1 Answer 1


I have had great success with

I'll take that as a compliment

Followed by a grin that suggests perhaps I'm being a little cheeky in taking a compliment where it might not have been intended.

People pretty much always smile and say something positive when I do that. I've also used it when people say things that could be taken as positive or negative, like "you've given me a lot to think about" or "this meeting has turned everything upside down".

It would be a very rare person who would respond by contradicting you that they didn't intend to be nice at all. Although your adviser comes close in supporting the myth of "natural gifts" for things instead of replying something like "when you prepare for a challenge it's common to find it pretty easy" which acknowledges the work you probably put in.

  • Thank you for your answer! I want to make a side note that the "natural gifts" comment was definitely delivered as a compliment, not intended to belittle the work I'd put in, and may in fact have been phrased differently. I'll edit my question to make that clear. As a new user I can't upvote your answer even though it's an answer on my question ( -.-), but I'll come back and accept it in a little while, provided there are no better answers.
    – MegaWidget
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 3:00
  • 1
    @RandolphCarter I disagree and find that an unhelpful and inaccurate belief. These things can be learned and taught. Someone who has them before they get to CS class happened to have been taught them - by circumstances, their parents, a previous teacher who was technically teaching math or some other subject. They are very much possible to learn and saying they aren't excludes people who come to CS later in life. Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 13:57
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – John
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 1:42

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