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Sometimes, when you're least expecting it, you get complimented... That happened to me today...

In my class, I was busy solving questions, when my teacher suddenly said "There's also some people in this class who go overboard. Abhigyan did [some respectful thing I'd done a long time ago]."

What had happened was that nearly the entire class had forgotten a certain concept that our teacher had told us to remember, and tried to drill into our heads... While 2 of us remembered it, the others who had forgotten tried to pretend like they knew it too... Our teacher didn't like that, and gave us a long speech on how one should try to remember things, and how remembering things that he's taught us is our way of showing him respect... After that, he mentioned the above line, about something I'd done long ago, as I was one of the 2 who had remembered that concept... At that point of time, I turned red, and was hoping I could sink into the floor, as what he said really embarrassed me in front of my friends. I felt like it was unnecessary, but stayed quiet.

This also happened to me on another occasion, when I had helped another person out, and she decided to come over to my house and thank me... Although that wasn't in public, that embarrassed me too, in the eyes of my extended family who was at my place at that time...

What should one do on such occasions to get the embarrassment over with, but at the same time not appear arrogant? I really don't like it when people make such a mountain of a molehill, but I'm afraid that if I say anything, it might sound like I'm turning down their gratitude, which might make them feel bad, and make me look like I'm a snob...

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I really don't like it when people make such a mountain of a molehill, but I'm afraid that if I say anything, it might sound like I'm turning down their gratitude, which might make them feel bad, and make me look like I'm a snob...

You do need to respect their feelings in such cases.

There is no use or need to be embarrassed or too humble, nor to try to deflect compliments, praise or gratitude, is what I say. The recognition you got in public is directly related to the positive impact you managed to make in those people's minds. What seems a small thing from your point of view might be a noteworthy and praiseworthy thing in the eyes of others.

Again, you cannot stop anyone from thanking or praising you in public, can you! I am sure they wouldn't usually do it unless they meant it. (Exception: some people excessively praise more wealthy or powerful persons to extract some favors from them but that is clearly not the case here.) Accept the praise or thanks graciously to express your appreciation of the person's sentiment.

Example 1: when the teacher says that you were only one of 3 people to remember what he said, you just need to smile and nod and never care if your friends think you are pro-teaching-establishment (read 'teacher's pet.')

If the teacher is clearly expecting a reply you can simply say

thank you sir, but it's my duty

Which is guaranteed to elicit a good response in the teacher's mind.

Note: There really is no reason to be dependent on the approval of your classmates, friends (or even teachers) or anybody else. Thus you can be independent of mind and avoid being influenced by the attitudes or actions of others. But studying is your job at present and for a few years it is always better to be pro-teaching-establishment, I say!

Example 2: when the young person thanks you in front of your relatives you can say, as I often do here on SE:

You are most welcome and I am glad I was able to help you!

Most of your relatives will be sure to form the impression that Abhigyan C is a kind and gracious person.

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As for the first scenario, the one about the teacher, my answer to you would be:

"If you don't know what to say, remain silent."

OR

"If you do know what to say, you should ask yourself if it's going to bring any good, or if it's going to solve anything. If not, remain silent."

You don't always need to respond. Sometimes it's better to remain silent, as that could save you from trouble or awkwardness. I've learnt that the hard way.

As for the second scenario, about the girl, I would simply reply [while smiling]:

Haha, no problem! You're very welcome! :)

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    Nice, simple and sensible advice @The Stranger! I hope to see more such good answers (and even questions) from you here on Interpersonal.StackExchange. – English Student Nov 8 '17 at 19:18
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Them: Thank you so much for helping me with X!
You: No problem, I'm sure you'd do the same for me!

Them: You're so smart! How do you remember everything?
You: Oh, you know ... I just happened to remember what the teacher said, it's no big deal.

You can accept a compliment for helping someone without brushing them off, or being arrogant. You can also downplay your achievements if you think it's going to make the other person feel a little better.

In the situation where a teacher starts praising you in front of the whole class there's not much you can do, however. Perhaps you could speak to him in private, and explain that while you appreciate his praise, it's causing envy and animosity among your peers. There's a decent chance that this won't go over well, however.

Instead, you may wish to examine your own feelings on the matter. Why do you feel embarrassed when you've clearly done well, and deserve some recognition? In the "real world" it's a good thing when you receive such recognition, and you should not shy away from it. In fact, workplace visibility, and recognition are huge markers for professional success, and many people wonder how they might improve in this regard. (this was literally just asked on Workplace SE)

Learning how to accept compliments, and spin situation like these to your advantage will be useful.

  • "Learning how to accept compliments" is absolutely right @AndreiROM! – English Student Nov 8 '17 at 19:19

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