'Nice pants!' "Oh, it only cost two tens ..." Don't reject a compliment, it's a psychological panacea. How do you best receive compliments?

You sit at the table with your in-laws. Your mother-in-law has stood in the kitchen for hours and looks at you expectantly. "Does it taste good?" You: "Yes, the potatoes are well cooked!" Mother-in-law: "Don't you like the meat?" "Yes," you say quickly. Pff, you'll say something nice again.

Watch out with compliments. Before you know it, your kindly intended answer will be taken as an insult. "Watch out for all too detailed compliments," says Frank van Marwijk, sociotherapist and co-author of Het groot complimentenboek (2017). "It is better to first give a compliment for the whole. If your mother-in-law asks if it tastes, you say:" Yes, deliciously made! " Then you say: "Yes, delicious with that fresh coriander!"

All's well that ends well. "You give a compliment on the whole, then she gives information about which she wants to have a compliment, namely about the herbs," says Van Marwijk. If you fill it in yourself with 'tasty potatoes', because it is hard for you to cook it yourself, then your compliment will go wrong.

Important for the other

How important is it to really mean your compliment? "People find authenticity very important if they give a compliment," says psychologist Marius Rietdijk of the VU University Amsterdam. But a little play is allowed. "People would rather receive a non-authentic compliment than a compliment," he says. That is why you do not have to be afraid that you will be mistaken for slime.

For example, social psychologist Roos Vonk writes in her book Collega's and other inconveniences (2015) that managers like to receive compliments. They hardly notice it when employees glue on them to get a white foot.

Compliment is reward

That we are happy with compliments can even be seen in our brains. The Japanese National Institute for Physiological Sciences conducted research on 19 people in 2008. The guinea pigs had to perform various tasks under the fMRI scanner. First they played a gambling game where they could win an amount. The participants then received positive comments on a personal video clip that they had previously recorded and a questionnaire that they had completed.

The researchers compared the brain scans when receiving the cash reward and when they heard the positive responses. What turned out to be? The reward system in the brain became active with both the cash reward and the compliment. This releases substances that make you feel good. That is why people become overjoyed when you say something compliments, as if they get a gift.

Two tens at Zeeman

But precisely because a compliment feels like a gift, receiving it is a bit uncomfortable. "It is as if you get something and you have nothing with you to give back," says Rietdijk.

He cites a classic example of a clumsy reaction to a compliment: "What good are you wearing?" "Oh, it only cost Zeeman two tens." So that is not a good response.

"You have to realize that the person who gives the compliment feels happy that he can give it. So you have to be happy to receive it. That is a gift back for the giver," says Rietdijk. That is typically the Netherlands. Our culture is Calvinistic, like: hard work and the reward comes after you die, in heaven. "That is why we find compliments soon exaggerated and it seems idle to respond enthusiastically to it.

How do you receive a compliment? Just say 'thank you'. And also give a compliment back, although that is not immediately necessary.

But giving compliments is mostly just fun. "It is a social panacea", says Rietdijk. If you give a good compliment, the atmosphere is immediately good. "Even at mother's table.

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