How Artists Should Respond to Compliments to Grow Their Audience Faster

Image for post
Image for post

artist grabs her iPhone and snaps a picture of her latest work. All told it took 40 hours to complete before you factor in the years spent learning the skills that were applied.

Happy with the result, she posts the picture on Twitter. The likes start to pour in, followed by the comments.

She hesitates as she summons the courage to read a few.


“I love this so much!”

“You’re so talented!”

The artist stops. “You’re so talented?!” she huffs in frustration.

Almost no time passes as she furiously mashes her fingers against the cracked screen of her phone to write her response. Before even a single thought transpires, the deed is done and the tweet is sent.

Another fan burned to cinder.

What’s a compliment anyway?

There’s a common belief in the art community that calling someone talented isn’t a compliment, it’s disrespectful.

If someone says you’re talented, the reasoning goes, they’re ignoring the time and effort you’ve spent learning your craft by chalking it up to an ability you’ve been gifted by the gods.

Anyone who says you’re talented must be corrected immediately, so they never make that awful mistake again! Never mind the person's intention.

But that belief is completely wrong. The intention totally matters.

A compliment is a polite expression of praise or admiration. That’s all.

If the person commenting on your work is making an earnest and polite remark of appreciation, it doesn’t matter if they phrase it the way you want, they’re trying to give you a gift: praise for your ability and the work you’ve done.

Do you really wanna take that gift and shit all over it? Can you afford to do that?

There are 3 possible responses to a compliment

You can choose to:

  1. Accept
  2. Reject
  3. Ignore

But there’s only one right way to respond to a compliment.

Rejection is what we’ve talked about so far. Rejecting, deflecting, slapping them in the face…whatever you call it, anything that implies the person is uninformed, stupid, or out of their mind for giving you a compliment…is the wrong way to respond.

In reality, rejection is only good for showing your insecurity, wasting your time, and losing fans.

Ignoring compliments is definitely less harsh than rejection, but it’s still off-putting. The only scenario where this is even remotely okay is when the compliment seems insincere. I would argue, however, that guessing people's intentions is not a great use of your time or energy.

Acceptance is the only way to win. You might think accepting a compliment makes you arrogant or self-centered, but it’s not true. The praise is good for us and we shouldn’t ignore it. Especially when we’re far more likely to remember negative comments than positive ones. We owe it to ourselves to take a moment to recognize and accept the good feelings when we can.

Foster a mindset where compliments are tiny gifts of positivity we can use to build our self-esteem. We should all show gratitude and accept them as they’re given.

How to accept a compliment

If someone takes the time to tell you how much they like your work, it gives you a chance to be grateful. You have to make the choice to be happy about that brief moment of goodness while it lasts. After all, an actual whole other human being went out of their way to say something nice to you, which they were never obligated to do.

It makes no sense to use this golden opportunity to be a jerk and push fans away. There’s no benefit there for either party. I don’t see how it’s even a question at this point. So, let’s pretend you’re on board. Fantastic.

The best way to respond to a compliment is by getting out of your own way and keeping it simple. The more you complicate your response, the more likely you are to commit another faux pas.

A simple “Thank you” or “Thanks” goes a long way.

Oh, alright, if you really wanna throw in some of the old razzle-dazzle you can add “I’m glad you liked it.” But try not to do too much extra too fast, because learning to accept compliments takes time and practice. It’s not a god-given talent like art. 😜

Just think: if the artist from the story above had accepted the compliment gracefully instead of insulting her fan, she could’ve had a happy ending too.

Now get out there and soak up the love!

Written by

Artist. Blogger. Family man. I help people bring more art into the world:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store