I’m a big believer in the art of the compliment – I know how great I feel when someone pays me a compliment, and I try to pass that feeling forward as much as possible. I don’t just over-compliment willy-nilly all over the place, because that sounds so fake and I loathe fake-ness with all my heart. I know people who compliment the ever-loving hooey out of me – it was nice to start with, but now when it keeps going on and on, it just sounds so insincere. Ick.
I am also fascinated by the phenomenon of those who rarely or never pay compliments to people…I find that equally weird. I don’t know if it just doesn’t occur to them, or if nothing ever pleases them – I can’t work it out. Case in point: I see someone, tell them how nice they look and compliment something they are wearing…and I’m met with silence. I show up in a new frock, excited because I think I’m mildly cute – and again. Nothing. This strikes me as weird behavior – but now, as I read over what I’ve written, I think I’m probably being Goldilocks…never happy. Is that correct? Am I being higher maintenance than usual? I probably am. I really need to work on that. I know that I can be difficult, demanding, needy, and an attention sponge, but…surely it can’t be wrong to expect to hear nice things from time to time?
What is the right amount of complimenting? Don’t you think it should be natural, organic, and come from a place of authenticity and genuine appreciation? Me too. I did a bit of online research about compliments, and came across this little gem:
“I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
The 12 Characteristics Of Effective Compliments
1. Be Genuine
Above all else, a truly effective compliment is a genuine one. Only praise someone if you think they actually deserve it. People can tell when you are being genuine, and they appreciate it. Conversely, there are few things more agitating than to receive a dishonest compliment.
A part of being genuine is not using hyperbole. In other words, don’t exaggerate.
Bad: “This is the best green bean casserole I’ve ever eaten!”
Good: “You cook a delicious casserole. I really enjoyed it!”
A genuine compliment is not given with the expectation of getting anything in return. You are simply saying what needs to be said at that moment.
Bad: “Nice shoes, wanna shag?”
Good: “Those shoes look great on you! Where did you get them?”
2. Be Specific
As a master complimenter, you must pay attention to detail. Giving a general compliment isn’t always a bad thing, but being specific is always better. A general piece of praise just doesn’t mean as much to anyone as a more detailed one. By pointing out a specific aspect of another person, it shows that you have taken real interest in them. You have taken a real interest in them, right?
Bad: “I like your style.”
Good: “That’s such a cool ring you are wearing! It really complements your whole style.”
3. Be Unique
This is related to being specific, but it goes a bit deeper. Some people receive the same compliment a lot. Beautiful women hear the same thing about their looks every day. Telling them they have beautiful eyes, while specific, won’t do much for them. Instead, tell them something they have never heard.
This requires an extreme amount of attention to detail and again, a genuine interest in the other person. Being unique is a challenge, but it will set your compliment apart and give it way more impact.
Bad: “You have beautiful eyes.”
Good: “That bracelet you’re wearing matches your eyes perfectly! Did you do that on purpose?”
4. Acknowledge Their Effort
Chances are good that it took some effort for the other person to achieve whatever it is you are complimenting them on. They will like your compliment even more if you acknowledge that effort. It shows that you appreciate what was going on “behind the scenes” to make it happen.
Bad: “You have a great figure.”
Good: “You have a great figure. You must have an impeccable diet and exercise routine!”
You can also acknowledge the character traits that must have been necessary to achieve their results. This has a similar effect.
Bad: “I like your artwork.”
Good: “I like your artwork. You’re clearly a very creative person.”
5. Describe The Effect Something Has On You
While praise is ultimately about the other person, they must have had some effect on you in order for you to notice it. People like hearing about how they affect others. If you let them know that they have positively impacted you in some way, it will make them feel better.
Bad: “You are a great writer.”
Good: “Your writing really inspired me. Because of what you wrote, I’m going to start exercising again.”
6. Use Emotional Or Descriptive Language
This is an important point, but if you don’t have a way with words, you shouldn’t let it stop you from complimenting others. If you can, however, I recommend using more emotional or descriptive language. You aren’t trying to impress them with your knowledge of SAT words, but there is no doubt that certain words have a stronger effect than others.
Bad: “You look really good today.”
Good: “You look absolutely stunning today.”
Remember to be genuine though. If you exaggerate too much, your advanced vocabulary will backfire.
7. Don’t Be Backhanded
Oftentimes, people will give compliments that make the other person feel worse about themselves. Don’t do that. A compliment should be entirely positive, and should leave no room for a negative interpretation. Backhanded compliments usually involve making some kind of negative comparison. This is best demonstrated through examples.
Bad: “You’ve lost so much weight, and you look great!”
Good: “I’m impressed at your dedication to health.”
Bad: “Nice nails, are they real?”
Good: “I love your nails, they look so classy.”
8. Don’t Wait For The Perfect Moment
Sure, the timing of your compliment is important. But the perfect moment will never come.
The worst thing you could do is try to “manufacture the moment”. Nothing could be less genuine. What does this mean? When you manufacture a moment, you are performing some kind of social maneuver in order to make your compliment fit a context. For example, you might really like the other person’s ring. After noticing the ring, you deliberately steer the conversation towards jewelry. There is nothing wrong with talking about jewelry. But you should first give the compliment, and then use that as a transition into a conversation about jewelry. It is much more authentic that way. Remember, you should let your compliments flow organically. It should feel like the right thing to say at the moment, or like something that just had to be said. You will improve the timing of your compliments with practice.
9. Don’t Second-Guess Yourself
Own your compliment. Whatever you have to say, say it like you mean it. You do mean it, right? If you are wishy-washy about it, your compliment will completely lose its effect. This is a common problem when a man compliments another man, particularly if it is about their appearance. A lot of guys think that if they compliment another man on their looks, they will seem “weird”. There is nothing weird about telling him that his shirt is awesome or that you’re impressed at their bench press. Don’t worry about what other people think. Just say what needs to be said.
10. Be Concise
A good compliment should not take long to say. If you add too much explanation to it, you dilute your message. This isn’t just true of compliments, but of communication in general.
Bad: “I really like your dress. The color is perfect for your complexion. I saw a dress like that once and I wish I had bought it. Total mistake on my part. Tomorrow I should go back and get it…”
Good: “I really like your dress. The color is perfect for your complexion.”
11. Pause For Effect
After saying what you need to say, stop for a moment. Give it a moment to sink in. It’s not as though your compliment should be a conversation stopper; nothing could be further from the truth. But you don’t need to immediately launch into another thing just because. This is similar to the advice of keeping your compliments concise. The idea for both is that you want the other person to actually hear what you have to say. If you don’t pause, you risk having your compliment get lost in the conversation.
12. Don’t Expect Anything In Return
Sometimes we compliment others because we want to get something back from them. This is a bad place to be coming from. Remember, the compliment is for them. You shouldn’t be saying it because you want to get a compliment in return. Besides, if they give you a compliment right after you give one to them, theirs will probably seem less genuine to you. It won’t feel as good as if you let them compliment you on their own. Similarly, don’t expect a “thank you”. You’ll probably get one, and you probably deserve it. But it’s not necessary, and you shouldn’t be expecting it in advance. Say what needs to be said, and then move on.
Good stuff, eh? I think so, too! There are few things lovelier than the feeling you get from a legit compliment…it puts the sprinkles on the entire day. 🙂 Some folks find it harder to compliment others – for example, I went to meet some peeps the other day straight from work (a 12 hour work day, yet), and I wasn’t looking my best, which I acknowledged. Don’t worry, one of the people at the table said, you don’t look bad…you’re fine. Hmm. I don’t know about you, but there is something so non-complimentary about that, don’t you think? I’m relieved to hear that I didn’t look BAD, but…is it really so hard to tell somebody that they look nice? I wasn’t expecting to have smoke blown up my skirt and be told that I was a numbah one stunnah, but….come on. It takes so little to effectively use adjectives, and can make others feel super-great, so…why not give it a try?
I’m going out to compliment a whole ton of people right now – I’ll let you know how it goes! Truth is…heading out the door, looking for lovely things to compliment is a pretty great activity – and I’m excited. 🙂 It’s great to look for the good amongst us, don’t you think? 🙂