Deflecting Compliments is Not an Olympic Sport

by Jennifer Miller on July 3, 2013

in Communication, Personal Effectiveness

Have you noticed that some women seem loathe to receive a compliment?

It’s almost like one-upping in reverse: who can denigrate themselves the fastest in a conversation? If deflecting compliments was a sport, some women would be Olympic gold medal contenders.

Case in point: in a comedy sketch shown on Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, a group of young women try to out-do each other in their quest to see who can put themselves down the fastest. (Note: link is definitely NSFW – watch this at home, not at the office – or be sure your speakers are turned off. It’s hilarious; notice what happens when one woman does accept a compliment.)

Of course, Amy Schumer’s show is comedic satire, so it’s extreme. But there’s truth in jest as the saying goes, and Ms. Schumer has tapped into a very real phenomenon.

When Terri Gross interviewed Amy Schumer recently on the NPR radio program Fresh Air, Shumer said that she wrote this sketch based on what she observed in her office. She noticed that women excelled at the “who can downplay their assets” game. Men, Schumer noticed, did nothing of the sort. Says Schumer:

It’s affected me because you catch yourself doing that. We just noticed we [the women] were doing it around the writers’ office and to a ridiculous degree. The men, I’ve never noticed men doing that [downplaying a compliment]. I’ll be like “That’s a great shirt” and then the guy will just wear that shirt all week.

Note to women: It’s ok to accept a compliment. Really. You are not a boastful so-and-so for graciously accepting an acknowledgement of your skills. There is, however, an art to receiving a compliment in a professional setting.

Want a few pointers? Check out my post on how to receive a compliment graciously.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jennifer Miller July 3, 2013 at 1:23 pm


Welcome to The People Equation! I think the answer to “why do women have a hard time accepting compliments?” is very complex – SO many possible reasons. Societal norms and cultural conditioning are two that come immediately to mind. And, as you point out – perhaps even some deeply embedded aspect that is part of what makes us feminine.

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