Let Thanks Land

Scroll down ↓

I suck at taking a compliment.

It’s been a consistent theme for years. I write something, or create something or share something. It’s not half-bad. Makes a difference for someone else. So they say, “dude, thanks.”

Every once in a while, it goes beyond that. A long email sharing how something I helped shepherd into the world has mattered. And sometimes, it comes in the form of a heartfelt face-to-face conversation or gift.

No matter the vehicle for delivery, I’ve never been comfortable with receiving thanks. Maybe it’s because I just don’t love being the center of attention (which is kind of funny given what I do). Or the fact that the desire for adulation or gratitude is not a driving force behind anything I do.

I create because I HAVE to create. The process breathes me.

Sometimes the output from that process has meaning or impact beyond me. That’s awesome. Frankly, if it didn’t, I couldn’t pay my rent. So, I often create deliberately with the intention of finding the sweet spot between what allows me to come alive and what matters to others (Thankfully, it’s a pretty big sweet spot with lots of room to play).

Still, I struggle to allow gratitude to land with ease. I generally deflect it with humor. I didn’t think much of that until fairly recently. Just typical guy stuff, right? Not so much. Here’s the problem.

When you deflect gratitude, you don’t allow the person offering it the full experience of giving it.

It’s a bit like getting a gift that’s been thoughtfully chosen or crafted by hand, only to stack it on a table with all the “other” gifts that have been given, while the giver stands in front of you.

How would that make you feel if you were the giver?

It’s just not cool. So, I’ve been working on a new response. The present and engaged thank you.

Yesterday was an interesting test. I started the day sharing this message on Facebook:

Sunday Mindset Reset – Call, text, email a single person to share how they make your life better. Even for the smallest reason. Go!

What happened next wasn’t what I’d intended. A bunch of those message came to me. Through facebook updates, emails and phone calls. So, I practiced. Listen. Look. Receive.

It’s still not natural, but hey, I’m a work in progress. Who isn’t?

Wondering, do you let thanks land with grace?


Join our Email List for Weekly Updates

And join this amazing community of makers and doers. You know you wanna...

37 responses

37 responses to “Let Thanks Land”

  1. Sharron says:

    Love this and am sharing with my husband! For me, for years, I deflected compliments because they didn’t feel real. If someone said “that was great,” it didn’t really do or mean much, so I learned, actually when reading poetry for an audience at DC MotherTongue, to respond with “I am so glad you enjoyed it. Could you please share a little bit more about what you liked?” Then people would give much more concrete info that allowed me to connect more fully with their experience, and therefore with them. The generic felt like something that separated us. This felt like something that connected us. Years later, I did a workshop with a fabulous coach who taught us to say “thank you for noticing.” That one is kind of fun to use sometimes, too! Thanks for the post. Good food for thought. And love the new blog format.

  2. So ironic, isn’t it? We thank you for your being thankful and your default is what? To give back more. It’s one of the reasons I value, and adore you.
    I am commenting here because this resonates with me. I also have a hard time taking compliments. Not too long ago, when a person would compliment me, I used to say, literally, “Thanks anyway.” What an insult for me to respond that way, right?!! But I didn’t buy their compliment. I believed that they meant it, but I didn’t believe I was worthy of the actual compliment… as if they had me confused with someone else, a more generous person.
    I have worked (so very) hard in recent years to respond to a compliment by saying, simply, Thank You. It’s not easy. I have to consciously shut my mouth and words after the “you” so I don’t resort to the old habit of deflecting the compliment.
    Anyhow, THANK YOU Jonathan for your honesty.

  3. I believe that one of the hallmarks of true wisdom and maturity is the ability to handle compliments and criticism with the same level of acceptance. Not easy to do, but it’s a goal. The big thing I have to remember is that I can accept anyone’s opinion as simply that – an opinion. It doesn’t mean I have to agree.

  4. Mark Reutzel says:

    Dude, are you fishing for a thanks? Ha. In all seriousness, thanks for the advice! I’ll never dis another complement again. All the best, Mark

  5. Norm Stoehr says:

    I’ve learned from Robert Cialdini’s book to say “You’re welcome! I’m sure you would do the same for me!”
    That acknowledges the value of what they are thanking you for and keeps the principle of reciprocity alive.

  6. I had a hard time receiving ANYTHING – and it showed up not just in missed opportunities to feel gratitude for the compliments and thanks, but also in terms of lost income. BIG time lost income. As soon as money would come in, I’d be quick to push it back out. And it wasn’t money either, it was everything that came as a blessing to me. As if I was saying “I’m not worthy to receive this, so I’ll just give it to someone else.”

    So my coach gave me a valuable lesson in practicing receiving. In all forms, I actually hold whatever has been given (even if I just hold it in my thoughts) for a moment, breathe, then offer the most heartfelt thanks I can muster at the time. It has been a great body memory for me to recognize how much I enjoy receiving – and that I don’t have to be an arrogant ass to be able to accept the blessings coming my way.

  7. Graciousness in accepting compliments is a loving thing. It acknowledges the giver, honoring their opinion and feelings. And, frankly, it IS why we do much of what we do – to be loved, to be shown love, to share love, to know we have touched another’s heart.

    I used to deflect but have learned to receive compliments fully. I no longer even fish for further data about why they l like me – that seems to detract from the moment. I usually say, and mean, at the time I am given a compliment – “Thank you. I really appreciate you saying so. That means a lot to me”. If I am physically near them, I usually reach out and touch them (hug, touch of the hand, a kiss) but I always include a smile, look them in the eye, and take a moment to really feel their love.

    This approach has made a real difference in the depth of my relationships. It keeps me sane, healthy, and happy to recognize when others see me and my true self. It’s what makes this world go round and I, personally, celebrate it.

    There is no purpose for me (or anyone) acting small or pretending that I am not all that and a bag of chips. It’s good to know – really, fully, completely – that you are worthy.

    So, hey, all you – YOU ARE WORTHY!! *hug*

  8. Comes down to worthiness right? And we all have issues with that. I’m doing my best to smile, look the person in the eye, and say thank you, to accept graciously even when I want to avoid eye contact and run. This is a good lesson to learn, to honor not only our own efforts and the benefit they bring to others, but to honor those that accept our help and appreciate it enough to let us know.

  9. YES. And in the helping field where inspiration is often the service we offer, it’s painful for the client to not be received when sharing their heartfelt expression of gratitude. Makes the goodies they’ve received feel somehow less valuable, and makes what we offer seem less magical.

  10. My mother and I discussed this very subject long ago. She told me clear and straightforward, “Matthew, when someone gives you a compliment, you look them in the eye and you say ‘thank you.'”

    I’ve done that ever since. Jonathan, I think the gem of your post is this:

    “When you deflect gratitude, you don’t allow the person offering it the full experience of giving it.”

    Giving and receiving, especially when it’s heartfelt, benefits both parties. It’s a form of love, and love trumps all … making us each feel great right to our core.

    So, thank you for you … and for reminding us to give gratitude and appreciation to those giving the same to us.

  11. leah says:

    I think we largely err in the distinction we make between giving and receiving. My recommended reading on this topic is Laura Doyle’s “Things Will Get as Good as You Can Stand.” It’s light reading, but very powerful. (And written primarily for women, but you can see past that, right?)

  12. Pamela Miles says:


    thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you
    thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you
    thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you
    thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you
    thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you
    thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

    I’ll just keep saying it until you get really good at letting it land. Ok? Then you can thank me for that! 😉

  13. Ailís says:

    Ditto Pamela… you took the words right out my heart!

    So here’s more practice for you Jonathan…

    Thank you, thank you, thank you… the world is an incredible place because you make it so by being incredible and encouraging others to be incredible too!

  14. Jim says:

    A gracious “You are welcome” is the completion of the person extending the “Thank You”. I can only report that when I say Thank You to someone and they don’t respond it feels like I’ve extended my hand and not have the other person do the same. It’s such a critical part of life. Like you, I have found my self doing the same thing.

  15. Adaeze Diana says:

    “When you deflect gratitude, you don’t allow the person offering it the full experience of giving it.” Now this is the way we all need to see it.

    I laugh because I wrote a little note about the “age of no compliments” in my journal. I’ve had experiences within the last few months that have proven to me that we really don’t know how to receive compliments. I remember two specific incidents where I complimented two ladies on something they wore and both of them looked at me like they were irritated and borderline angry.

    I wondered why until I realized it was because we live in a time where people are stingy with compliments. We are so used to criticism and cut-downs and we subconsciously don’t expect people to be kind or compliment anything about us anymore. When someone does, it’s like alien behavior. Even I am surprised and feel a little awkward when someone compliments me.

    Lesson: We have to practice true gratitude and engagement with people when they compliment us. It serves us AND them well. Thank you for the lesson Jonathan and thank you for being you!/:

  16. BZTAT says:

    As an artist, I often have people come into my studio or art show booth and compliment my artwork. I am usually gracious in a very genuine way. It helps me sell artwork, but more importantly, it gives my public and me a more full and complete experience of the art.

    There are times that it starts to feel less genuine, when I have talked to hundreds of people at an event. That is when I need to challenge myself to be centered and present and focus on the overall experience and not myself. Each person’s experience is important, and even if they utter the same words as the person before, their engagement with me and the art is unique.

  17. Heidi Nicholl says:

    Great post Jonathan. I do tend to find that people rarely just say thank you.. and (possibly because I’m British) I find that generalised praise is even harder to deal with.

    I actually just got an email from a member of my staff this weekend saying “I am using you as inspiration to me on success right now:) Truly, I love your zest for life and think your boldness admirable” I actually left it in my response folder to try and work out what to do. I re-read it this morning and decided that it didn’t need a response because I don’t know what the hell to say! This post makes me think I should reconsider. At least I rejected my default where I wanted to say, “I don’t feel so energetic or inspiring right now” as that does draw away the ‘thank you’ aspect.

    I’m going to have another look now. Thank you Jonathan!

  18. Tom Bentley says:

    Jonathan, we have similar methods: I’m uncomfortable with praise (ahh, the self-esteem issues create entire industries!), and almost always try to deflect it with humor or some tangential aside. But yes, that doesn’t acknowledge the good spirit and intention of the giver at all—a great insight, and so simple to rectify with an easy “thanks” or some equivalent.

    And you asked for it: thank you for all your good work. And it’s been damn good work.

  19. Veronika says:

    the first thing that struck me when I started receiving your emails was that you always sign:

    “with gratitude”

    Isn’t that funny?
    You are spreading so much generosity and gratitude through your work, both directly and indirectly.
    lots of gratitude back

  20. Phil Johnson says:

    If it’s better to give than to receive the best thing you can do for someone else is allow them to give to you.

    Warm regards, Phil

  21. Awesome post Jonathan, thanks. To answer your question, no, I do not let thanks land with grace. Can’t say I know why that is either. Seems this same concept holds true for success as well as I do not let success land with grace either. I’m certainly grateful and appreciative for all the thanks and success that comes my way. I’ll get there…. a work in progress.

    Mike G

  22. Michelle says:

    I see you, I hear you…you do this because you have to do it. But to complete the circle and balance out what you give out to the world it is important that you sit with and bask in that gratitude that comes back your way. It will feel good if you do not let your mind habits and beliefs get in the way! Its love back to replenish the love you give out. Thank you as you are doing what you are meant to be doing in the world which is incredibly inspiring in and of itself… you are a naturally compassionate person who hunts for joy filled super heros to share their stories(everyone you interview is a hero). Love, Michelle

  23. sussan says:

    A gift someone gave me when I had challenges accepting thanks, was that when you don’t accept the gratitude or brush it off, even if its because you feel embarrassed or unworthy, it is also like saying that the opinion of your gift, work, insight, whatever, is of little value. If that person whom first offered the gratitude was someone you held in high esteem would you react the same way, would you hold their opinion in the same light?

  24. Jonathan Fields says:

    To all who’ve shared thoughts and all who’ve shared thanks…thank you.

  25. melanie hoyt says:

    The simplest thing to do is answer a compliment with a short “thanks” and
    a thank you with “you’re welcome.” Then shut your mouth!

    Another pitfall to avoid is to never say “You look good today.” Shut your
    mouth right after the adjective and leave out the the today as it implies
    the person looks like crap all the other days.

    Your advice can never be repeated often enough.

  26. Jon Wilburn says:

    Jonathan – I’m with you. I don’t let “Thanks” fall naturally on me. I want to deflect it. At some level I feel like I’m just wanting to stay humble, but that doesn’t mean I can’t say “your welcome.” It’s just not easy. I guess the idea is to receive thanks knowing that the talent and gifts I’ve been given are to be used to help others. It’s a mindset and its ok to receive thanks for that.

    Take care,

  27. Wendy says:

    I love your work, your presence, your transparency. Thank you, Mr. Fields, for another moment that pushes me beyond normal to real.

  28. Marcel Reining says:

    !If you do not like long sentences or posts from the heart in English from a not native speaker (I am Dutch), this post is not for you!-)

    Great reminder of this part of my journey in life! Your post makes me feel aware and proud of what I achieved in my life so far and gives me a boost to move on.. So…

    Thank you , Jonathan, you make my day. I hope to give back someday…Seriously!

    You/or anyone reading this: would make my week if you/they accepted my thanks/post ……lol

    0*- litlle warning b4 accepting
    This post should come with a litlle warning. It might be the real reason why I was really bad in accepting. But it is no reason not to start becoming better at it, gradually…Why? 2 very good reasons

    1*- Accepting is not hurting:
    I so recognize your feeling Jonathan. I only accepted or craved thanks and compliments from people I admired.
    Exactly the fact that some one told me (not from just some one, I now remember her, and I will sent her a copy of my post to thank her, today actually, better I will include the link) …. The fact that I hurt the givers or discourage them to give compliments or thanks, by not receiving well, encouraged me 5 years ago to become better at it.

    ?->!*- How to accept :
    A simple thank you is Ok. But is not really effective for receiver and giver. I can really make someones day or week if I do a better job. I use this simple phrase.
    ” It feels really good to …. from you” (gives them a boost for a few minutes, hours, day at best). If I share what their compliment/insight really ment to me or helped me to achieve, later on in life. I could make their day or week! This reminds me of Jonathans post of the 4 minute thank you compilation video…

    !2!- Its is good for you!
    But it comes with a small warning:
    When I first did this accepting gracefully I did this from every one. I could not handle the amount of energy it gave me. I was so full of energy I could work all day and night… and I did. Be ready for the extra energy you get, because, I really needed some help to get my life into an normal healthy rithm again. (Maybe we feel this possible limitless source of energy and are afraid of it…)
    Please do a better job than I did by gradually increasing the circle of people, you start to gracefully accept thanks/compliments from.
    First start with the ones you love (because you really do not want to hurt them) Enjoy the moments.
    Then increase the circle, one time encounters, your workplace etc.
    Get ready and enjoy the ride!

    !! Please do not be mad at yourself for not doing this sooner in live!! It is totally normal/human to let fear hold you back in your actions.
    Embrace the fact you are human,..
    Be kind to yourself…
    But no buts,..
    Now go for it, …

    Accept Gracefully!-)

  29. Andrea says:

    I think it’s also about difficulty in receiving compliments / praise – at least for me. Till a friend gave me clear feedback: sometimes all this humility can become a form of arrogance. Because I was looking silly pushing comments away about “you did a good job, I really want to learn from you” with “it’s nothing”. That got me thinking whether my humility is really a veiled sense of arrogance, and got me consciously reacting differently to accept.

  30. Donna Krischan says:

    Favorite response to a “Thank You” which I have been working hard to use faithfully – “My pleasure!”

  31. I read your post and all the comments with great interest. Seems you are not alone in being uncomfortable accepting compliments, praise, appreciation and thank you, and there’s a good reason why. If you really think about it, none of these communications are actually about you as the receiver. They are about the person giving the compliment, praise, appreciation or thanks. Let’s look at few examples: Compliments sound like this “I really like the colors you used on the cover of your book.” Ask yourself who really likes it? This statement is about the speaker and what the speaker likes. How about another example? “I really appreciate the extra time you took with me on that project.” Again, who really appreciates it? I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

    The vast majority of our communication falls into this trap. The irony is that when we are giving praise and appreciation we think we are talking about the other person, and we expect those statements to contribute to them. When in fact, they are really about what the speaker appreciates and values, and more than half the time they create more “resistance” in the receiver than receptivity. This is why we have a difficult time hearing and accepting praise and appreciation. As many of the comments indicate we can learn to take a compliment. Taking a compliment becomes easier when you understand that it actually isn’t about you and the person is communicating what is important to them.

    The other solution (which I think is a better one) is to shift our language to results based communication — something I call acknowledgment. Acknowledgment is stating results or actions with a tone of appreciation or curiosity, without judgment and without making it about you as the giver. This is easier said than done, but well worth the effort. Acknowledgement makes the communication completely about the receiver and their actions, and because it is about results or actions the mind can’t argue and the acknowledgement is better received. Sharon mentioned in her comment that she asks clarifying questions to try to understand what the person was referring to. This is a common strategy to get at the specific action or result they are offering compliments, praise or appreciation about. The solution to the lack of clarity in the exchange is the language of acknowledgment.

    The communication tool of acknowledgment to overcome the limitations of praise, compliments and appreciation is so powerful Jonathan Manske and I have written an entire book on it. Our culture has a long standing romance with praise compliments and appreciation, but they don’t work nearly as well as we assume they do, that is why we titled our book The Motivation Myth. If you really want to dig into this distinction, and learn a powerful new tool, I highly recommend it.

  32. Scott Asai says:

    Fortunately I have learned this lesson, so yes. Early on, I would defer or deny, but after a while I realized when I do that it offends the other person because they want to do it. Of course the exception is when there are strings attached, but you may not know that until you actually do it. The better question is, “How do you want the recipient to respond when they’re given something?” How you answer that is your answer.

  33. Judi says:

    Yo Jonathan! First of all … YOU ROCK! Thanks for being a vessel of inspiration and someone I look to online for wisdom and guidance. Your work resonates … thank you for creating.

    Second of all … I love this post and totally agree. Actually, I just blogged about it last week … But it’s so true – I watch people deflect compliments all the time and of course I do it myself … but now I work to break the cycle!! I share my insight on the topic in my blog post here, check it: http://www.judiholler.com/takeacompliment/

  34. […] Let thanks land from Jonathan […]

  35. Marti DeMoss says:

    Public applause is compliment, too, right? How does that make you feel?

    At Wisdom 2.0 this year, Eckhart Tolle asked the emcee to tell us that he preferred no applause. Instead, he asked us to simply meet him with our presence. Of course, many in the audience forgot and applauded anyway… until they caught themselves. And people totally forgot at the end and applauded with gusto.

    Sharon Salzberg also dismissed ‘her’ applause. She was almost off stage before many of us emerged from the meditation and opened our eyes (and began applauding, of course). She just vanished.

    I’ve heard you speak twice. The second time, a number of Jonathan Fields’ enthusiasts, including me, camped outside the session door an hour before start time… some willing to forego lunch (not me), just to ensure admittance and good seats. (Compliment!) I don’t remember who introduced you, but I’d be willing to bet that you received great applause at the beginning and end of your session. (More compliments!)

    Public applause may seem less personal when coming from hundreds of people vs. someone grasping your hand, looking into your eyes and expressing gratitude, or vs. a heart-felt letter/email.

    But even though the stage creates a little distance between you and attendees (even though you ended up sitting on the edge of the stage… a great equalizer), each person who stands, cheers and claps… well that’s just a ton of compliments and gratitude coming your way. Easier?

    I have to laugh about how I deflect compliments, sometimes. As many women might do, if it’s about clothes, I might feel compelled to report on the bargain I snagged (“Only 20 bucks!”… which I guess makes me smart, too?).

    Sometimes I’m so surprised by a compliment I’ll shake my head no, maybe look down for a second, and then say something like “Really”? “Seriously”?

    I’m practicing something simpler: “Wow. That is so nice to hear.”

  36. Geoffrey says:

    Remembering that giving and receiving are really the same thing (and that my reception is a crucial part) helps me to find natural and original ways of allowing/thanking someone for their gift/compliment.
    In my experience simple and humble gestures/words work best.