Today is National Compliment Day, which challenges us to give someone (or several people) a sincere expression of praise, congratulations, or encouragement.
Compliments have a strange and profound ability to create positive energy, build trust, and spark creativity. They promote awareness and enhance your, and others’, well-being; they show the people on the receiving end that something about them was worth acknowledging. More importantly, Psychology Today says that complimenting someone allows you to “view yourself as a generous and big-hearted person. So, you can increase your own self-esteem…” because of how you perceive yourself.1
As with most things in life, compliments come with their own set of rules. Surprisingly, giving a compliment is not as straightforward as you may think, but there are ways to help you deliver better ones in the future.
So, let’s chat and chew about good characteristics of a compliment and how we can all benefit from exchanging them more often.
WHY ARE COMPLIMENTS IMPORTANT?
You know there’s been a time when you felt unappreciated or struggled to figure out how someone felt about you—all it would take is one quick pick-me-up to make a big difference! Compliments not only give people reassurance, they strengthen relationships and build your network. People shy away from individuals who are self-absorbed and unwilling to share in the glory; they are more likely to put someone down in order to give their own self-esteem a boost.
In today’s world, whether personal or professional, we tend to compete with others. For some, giving compliments means they are admitting their inferiority to that person. The truth is, compliments are a way to show respect or admiration for someone; no one is refereeing, so “withholding your compliment isn’t going to even the score.”1
WHAT MAKES A GOOD COMPLIMENT?
Giving someone a compliment just to check a box is the worst possible way to approach this exercise. You can always tell when someone is offering you fake flattery; not only does it raise questions about your character and intentions, it can weaken a relationship as well. To avoid any miscommunication, see below for some common characteristics you should remember, and incorporate, when considering whether or not to compliment someone.
- Make it genuine. Insincere compliments are easy to point out; they are also much more damaging than simply stating the truth. Compliments that aren’t authentic can create trust issues and diminish any praises you may offer in the future. With genuine compliments, the expectation is to get nothing in return—you feel it’s necessary in that moment to say something positive.
- The more specific, the better. Paying attention to detail is what separates those with great complimenting skills from those who still need work. Being specific shows that you’ve taken a genuine interest in the person; likewise, it reassures them that their doing something right. Remember to use language that is descriptive or emotional, but never embellished.
- Recognize the little things. In any business—even personal—setting, a lot of “behind-the-scenes” work takes place. On the surface, the assumption is that the final outcome (i.e. project, event, clean house, etc.) just miraculously came together; however, as we all know, the preparation, lack of sleep, and running around is the real magic underneath it all. Let someone know their efforts to achieve the end result did not go unnoticed.
- Show how it affected you. Every so often, telling someone how great they did is too predictable. Mix things up by showing how you were affected by their actions—people enjoy hearing how their actions greatly impacted others.
- Avoid the backhanded compliment. Backhanded compliments are not compliments at all. Instead, they are an insult masked as one, usually spoken in a passive aggressive tone. If you’re surprised by someone’s talents or accomplishments, rather than undermine the situation, (i.e. “Your painting is surprisingly good”), remove any words that may overshadow your intended comment.
While there may never be the perfect moment to give someone a compliment, it’s important to at least start trying. Never try and fit a compliment into the context of a conversation, or a social interaction, because people can easily catch on. We’ve all heard it before—“honesty is the best policy”—so make sure you’re giving people the praise they deserve, when they deserve it, and compliments are not used as a means to push your own agenda.