Why I Don’t Mind Asking For Compliments

Self-deprecation is overrated

Jun 17, 2019 · 5 min read
Unsplash — she has a beautiful smile.

Compliments are a lot like the last piece of chocolate cake.

We all desire it, but we assume it’s too rude to ask for it. Instead, we pretend as if we don’t even want that piece of cake. We are definitely not hungrily staring at that piece of cake. It’s only when someone else offers it to us that we feel comfortable enough to accept it.

Compliments work the same way. As much as we love them, we won’t ask for them. We may even manipulate people into giving us one, but we won’t just ask.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved compliments. I’ve loved receiving them, but I’ve also loved giving them. I could be having a terrible day, but the minute someone tells me they like my outfit, I immediately perk up.

Watching someone else’s eyes light up when I give them a compliment is almost just as good of a buzz. The positive energy of a compliment is contagious.

Yet, despite the infectious joy that compliments bring, asking for praise is inappropriate. It’s just not the kind of thing you do. You can ask questions that lead to compliments (“Does this dress look good?”) or even manipulate people into giving one (“I’m just a terrible person. Nobody likes me”), but you’re not supposed to just ask.

Well, I’ve broken that social taboo several times — and here’s why:

It’s no secret that, most of the time, compliments make us feel good about ourselves. Our boss tells us we had some great ideas in that meeting, and suddenly our step has a little more pep in it.

There’s a reason for this, too — according to a study in Japan, our brain has the same reaction to receiving a compliment as it does when receiving cash. Not only that, but compliments that are directly related to our performance or skills can also make us work harder. It’s why, after hearing our boss say they liked our ideas, we strive to come up with even better ones next time.

That pleasant spark of joy that happens after getting a compliment is one reason why I don’t mind asking for them. Although I won’t ask everyone (and definitely not my boss), I don’t feel any shame about asking a family member or close friend for a little praise.

To many people, intentionally asking for a compliment might come across as insecure. After all, society tells us that seeking validation from others is a sign of weakness. You’re not supposed to wear that stunning necklace or that new hat to get a reaction out of other people — you’re supposed to only do it for yourself.

The only issue with believing that compliments and validation are bad is that it isn’t true. Compliments do make us feel good — and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t embrace a little external validation or praise (keyword: little).

Asking for compliments is just a straight-forward approach to receiving that validation. When I’m having a bad day, I might ask my sister or a close friend to name one thing like about me.

While the compliment might not necessarily be given freely, the answer isn’t scripted. I’m not asking whether or not that dress makes me look fat — I’m asking for someone I care about to describe one thing they genuinely appreciate about me.

One of the greatest things about asking for compliments is that, not only does it make me feel good, but it gives me the opportunity to make someone else feel good. Once the person has given me an answer and I’ve experienced that positive little buzz, I can turn back around and compliment them.

I get the chance to dig deep and find something I sincerely like about the other person too. Even if the compliments didn’t necessarily happen naturally, they still manage to make both of us feel good about ourselves.

I might not be able to ask people for cash, but I can ask for compliments.

Asking someone to describe one thing they like about you is an interesting way to discover a lot about the other person.

Some friends might give me vague answers like, “Oh, I like your hair,” or, “You have really pretty eyes.” These aren’t bad compliments, but they do show that the other person greatly values appearance and looks (that, or they just couldn’t find one thing they liked about my personality).

Other friends will give you long, sincere answers that leave you smiling for days: “I love your compassion,” or, “I really admire how you handled this situation.” These are the sort of answers that help me realize that this person is paying attention. They understand me — perhaps more than I’ve realized.

Bottom-line — when you ask someone for a compliment, you often discover what traits that person values. Some friends and family might only see you as a pretty face, while others connect with you on a deeper level.

Asking for compliments is already a bit of a social taboo, but even this inappropriate behavior comes with its own boundaries. For instance, I don’t ask everyone for compliments.

I wouldn’t ask my boss or the barista who serves me my coffee. Not only would that make for a wildly uncomfortable situation, but those people probably don’t know me well enough to give a sincere, heartfelt comment anyway. It’s why, if I am going to ask for a compliment, it’s going to be from a tight-knit friend or a close family member.

And, when I do ask, I don’t do it all the time. Like most things, external validation is good in small doses. Wanting a little genuine praise to cheer you up is one thing, but relying on that validation all the time is another. Praise should make you feel good, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that makes you feel good about yourself.

If you’re asking people to compliment you every day or every time you see them, you may be using that external validation as a crutch. Wanting compliments and needing compliments are two different things.

I also find that if you’re going to ask people to praise you, you shouldn’t “guide” their answers. Instead of asking whether or not your hair looks good or if you’re a narcissist, try just asking for one thing they admire about you. Not only will you learn more about the other person, but you’ll also be getting a sincere answer — not a forced, obligatory one.

Compliments are powerful. With only a few words, we can make someone feel good about themselves — perhaps even help them discover a quality they didn’t know they had. In a culture that often frowns upon expressing your emotions openly, we should be wielding the power of compliments more often.

Most people fish for praise anyway — so why not just cut out the manipulative middle-man and ask for it instead? Contrary to what society might say, we all desire a little external validation — and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that. We just have to be careful that desire doesn’t consume us.

You might never ask for that last piece of chocolate cake, but there’s no reason you can’t ask for a compliment.

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Written by


When I’m not writing, you can usually find me hanging out with my cats. pricelindy@gmail.com

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +800K followers.


Written by


When I’m not writing, you can usually find me hanging out with my cats. pricelindy@gmail.com

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +800K followers.

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