5 Kick-Ass Reasons to Give a Genuine Compliment, and How to Do It

“A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil.”
Victor Hugo

“Do not offer a compliment and ask a favor at the same time. A compliment that is charged for is not valuable.”
Mark Twain


Some are sincere. Some are quite the opposite.

Some like to get them. Some feel a little uneasy and self-conscious about them.

And from time to time I think to myself that there is too few of them. They are underused and underrated and are often forgotten among gossip, negative self-talk and complaints about the boss, the job, the weather and milk prices.

Negative observations about reality are plentiful. Positive observations are much fewer.

So, here are 5 compelling reasons why it’s a good choice to use more genuine compliments in your day to day life. And a bit further down, three tips on how to give them.

  1. You can make someone’s day. That’s a nice thing to do.
  2. Increased positivity. Keeping your focus on the positive parts in people expands your own positivity. You’ll notice more positive things about yourself, your own life and other things in your surroundings. What you focus on in your everyday life you’ll see everywhere, not just in other people.
  3. You get what you give. Don’t keep this in the forefront of your mind while giving a compliment. It may make the compliment seem insincere and like you are just out to get something from the other person. But still, people often have a strong feeling of wanting to give what they got. Perhaps not right away, but over time reciprocity and a positive relationship can build. And in general, what you give you tend to get back from the world around you.
  4. Attractiveness. Positivity, appreciation and being able to genuinely express yourself are three attractive traits both in personal and professional relationships. People tend to want to hang around and work with people that have such traits.
  5. It’s fun. :) When you give a genuine compliment you ignite a spark of happy feelings inside of yourself.

Now, here are three tips for sharpening your compliment giving skills.

The compliment has to be genuine.

Otherwise you are just trying to take something from the one you are complimenting. And that will not work so well. Your insincerity will often shine through.

A compliment delivered with positive words but with a body language and voice tonality – the two most important parts of interpersonal communication – that aren’t saying the same thing may often not go over so well. And the rule that you get what you give still applies.

What you feel when you deliver the compliment will come through. So make sure that there is a genuine feeling behind the words.

Cultivate a habit of appreciation.

This will let you discover all the genuinely nice things about people. With this filter closed it will be harder to see the positive things in people and to give compliments that are actually totally genuine.

Try to appreciate the things around you – your home, friends, family, co-workers, computer, weather, food etc. – a few minutes a day to build this habit.

Compliment on something the other person feels is important to him/her.

It may be – at least in some cases – a good practice to not compliment on something that the other person doesn’t have much control over. Or something that he or she has been complimented on a thousand times before. Looks and other more superficial stuff are examples of such things.

A compliment that is kinda expected will not be that powerful. And even though your compliment is genuine it may just be lumped together with all those other similar and not so genuine compliments the person has received.

Instead, observe what makes this person tick. What are his/her passions, qualities, interests and proudest achievements? What can you genuinely appreciate about those things?

And finally, remember, pretty much no matter what the response is you can still feel good about giving a compliment. As Seneca says in tip # 5: how the other person responds – what s/he says or feels – isn’t your responsibility.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Haley

    May I compliment this article? It’s very insightful!

  • Liz

    I genuinely compliment strangers when they’re wearing something I like.

    No one has ever done that for me, and I rarely see anyone else do it, so I figure it’s pretty rare and maybe it’ll make someone’s day.

    How many people wouldn’t want their new cute shoes to be noticed?! :)