How to Give a Compliment

In my post bag last week I had three lovely emails all thanking me for various bits of coaching I had done. They made me feel wonderful and started me thinking about how important it can be to give and receive compliments.

However, many of us are quite diffident when it comes to giving compliments; we feel that we may be thought of as insincere, or worse, sucking up to someone. But actually, being able to give a genuine and sincere compliment reveals a high level of emotional intelligence. To give a genuine and sincere compliment you need to have taken notice of a person, and we all respond positvely to a compliment that we believe is genuine (even if sometimes we find it hard to know how to respond – more about how to receive compliments in a later post).

Why Give a Compliment?

Well, it’s part of our human interaction. It can be a conversation opener, like:
‘I really like those earings you are wearing, they bring out your eye colour. Where did you get them?’

In this statement you are saying I have noticed you, I am not making an anodyne ‘you look nice’ comment but I have actually noticed you as a person. I am complimenting you on your taste in jewellery and I am showing that I would like to converse with you. Bet you didn’t realise you could say so much with so little! It’s like giving a little conversational gift.

Behaviour Changes

Did you know, it has been researched that we need about seven pieces of praise to wipe out the effects of one negative comment? So be specific when you give your compliment. This works with children and adults. Comment and compliment on the behaviours that you like and hold back on criticising those you don’t like. For example, after a team meeting it can be far more effective to say:
‘I really was impressed with the way that you handled that difficult question without getting angry’,
and leave out the fact that they got really narky with the first questioner!

Compliment Your Manager

I was once at a large corporate affair and complimented one of the senior management team on her presentation (it had been very good). She looked at me in grateful surprise and said:
 ‘One of the aspects about being in a senior post is that people rarely say things like that. They assume that you can do it easily or should be able to do it easily so no one ever says anything. Thank you for saying that’.
It really taught me a lesson about the power of a sincere and genuine compliment. We all appreciate it, at whatever level. To make a genuine connection, only give genuine compliments, but remember you need to balance them with appropriate and considered criticism. If you only ever give indiscriminate praise your contributions will be devalued. When you get the balance right people will value what you say all the more and they’ll take all your comments more seriously.

Focus on the Positives

So try and focus on the good in people, and compliment it throughout the day. You never know, it might just make you feel like you’re actually surrounded by kind, competent, and interesting people. And the research tells us that they will find you to be more kind and competent as well! Win win!

If you have enjoyed this please take a look at this article on my web site.


Posted on April 23rd, 2009 by

4 Responses to “How to Give a Compliment”

  1. As a little girl, my dad taught me to always say thank you. When I was about to get married he emphasised several times that one of the keys to a successful marriage is APPRECIATION. I really believe that we need to make compliment-giving a part of our lifestyle.
    Thanks for this great article Jane – you are ‘fantabulous!’

  2. Jane says:

    Thank YOU for the compliment and the comment!

  3. Moonpoppy says:

    Goodness, its only recently I have been able to accept compliments gracefully and with gratitude – yet I’ve always been very big on focusing on the positive in others and showering them with compliments whenever I felt it was the right thing to do. Lovely article, Jane. Thank so much!

    • Jane says:

      Yes, sometimes we get too focused on giving and not letting others give to us. I know I’ve been guilty of that. Thanks for dropping by the blog! Jane

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