How to take a compliment

By Wayne EliseThis is the companion piece to my earlier ‘How to give a compliment.’


On a cosmic scale, life, organization and purpose are temporary. Culture, architecture, the internet, cars, Sunday-fun-days, language and everything human kind enjoys and has made are temporary exceptions in a Universe intent on running down and spreading out into a thin cloud of radiation.

“Ta-da! I bought you a Vespa!”

“Wow! It has a sidecar and everything!”

“And racing stripes. They won’t have Vespas in the future.”

“No they won’t. Entropy.”

“Yeah, dang entropy. Enjoy the Universe of useful clumpy energy and matter while it lasts.”

“You know we’re here by a quirk of fate, right?”

“Oh yeah, I know. To hell with it. Want to rob a bank?”

“With a Vespa?”

“Makes a stylish getaway vehicle.”

“We’ll need googles.”

One day, many years from now, the only thing left will be neutrons floating in space and a state of uniform, low-level radiation distribution. And nothing will be interesting - forever more. See The Heat Death of the Universe.

Compliments take effort. And that is wonderful because it is in opposition to the nature of the Universe which is nudging us toward apathy and decay.

“You are the best amateur sushi chef in the world.”

“Oh, no way. I’m not that good.”

“Dude, your rolls are tight.”

“Sure. But not the tightest.”

“I think they are.”

“Have you seen Deb’s rolls? Now those are tight.”

“They’re not bad.”

“What? Are you arguing with me now?”

“No. I was just saying I like yours the best.”

“Well, I’m not ready to handle that level of appreciation.”

“Apparently. Sheesh.”

When someone gives you a compliment you may think it insincere. You may think they have ulterior motives. Maybe they do. But as Shakespeare said, “Nobody cares. Because all of life is a stage and to be a charismatic you gotta go with it. Sincerity is just good acting bro.”

Think of complimenting as staging Shakespeare at your community theater. There are roles to be cast and lines to be delivered.

If you’re lucky enough to be cast as The Complimented, your intention is to wow the audience with your social grace and generosity. The proper response to a compliment is to shift the focus back to The Complimentor’s generosity.

“Good deed my friend. With that sacrifice of yours I have made the break towards daylight. In no small measure am I to be made whole again and meet with the restoration of my fortune.”

“My fortune was made by your acquaintance sir and by your words. You are forthwith full of courage and vigor to speak such to one of my station.”

“I only speak the marrow of my bones. Truth!”

“It t’would be easier to let the moment go unannounced tho my lord.”

“Nay, would be harder. Things are turning out right, save for the spear in your side and this crimson puddle at your feet, dear corporal and friend.”

“The cost is small. In a fortnight the republic will be yours. I have made a good death of it.”

“Good night sir. Sojourn off and I will remember you well.”


And the curtain falls on the scene.

I can see the review in the Times now. “Dazzling! Whoever that person was in the role of The Complimented took likability to a new level. What an egoless performance! Too bad the character was killed off in the first act.”

When someone gives you a compliment, they are willing to stick their thumb in the Universe’s eye. Give them some love. Focus the conversation on their courage and kindness and then use the conversation to PLAY.

Ding Ding!

“Awesome. You’re the best bike messenger we have.”

“No worries. I’m just doing my job.”

“Seriously, most of the bike messengers get the package here ten minute late. You always get it up here early.”

“It’s my fancy bike.”

“I beg to differ. It’s the rider.”

“No. I’m sorry, it’s the bike!”



“Shut up and accept my compliment or I’ll take that silly mohawk helmet off your head and throw it out the window!”

“Okay. Fine. Thank you for the nice words! It’s kind of you to go out of your way to say them! Now can I have my helmet back?”

“What are your plans for lunch tomorrow?”

“Uh, no plans exactly.”

“Good. You can have your helmet back if you take me to lunch.”


“Fine! Here, take it.”

“Good! Thank you.”

“Good bye! By the way, nice buns!”

“Right. Uh… thanks. That’s kind of you to say.”

“There you go. Good response. I took a photo of them. Hope you don’t mind.”

“Sorry. Of what?”

“Your buns. I uploaded them to one of those Hot or Not sites.”

“I see.”

“Sorry. Hope that’s alright.”

“Well um, how did they do?”

“Your buns? Yeah, they won best buns. CNN wants to interview you.”


“No. Not really. April Fools!”

“Ha. Aren’t you a day late?”

“You were supposed to come yesterday.”

“Something you should know. These aren’t my real buns. They’re implants.”

“Ha. Nice try. I know the real deal when I see them.”

“No really. Look.”

“Dear god!”

“Ha. Just kidding. That’s just my water bottle. See you tomorrow.”

Ding Ding.

Let’s review. Step 1) Appreciate the effort to make the compliment. Step 2) Use the topic to find a way to play together. Step 3) Come back here and report. :)