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.

Free Exclusive Happiness Tips

Join the 80,000 people that subscribe to the Positivity Newsletter and you’ll get practical tips on happiness, self-esteem, productivity and more each week.

You’ll also get these three guides for free:

  • 21 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me in School.
  • 7 Steps to Stop Being So Lazy.
  • 10 Things You Can Do When Life Sucks.

100% privacy and no spam. You can unsubscribe anytime.

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 Lifehack, The Huffington Post and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I hope a lot of people read this posting! Thank You for the profound wisdom, Brad

  • An interesting post. I agree on ‘You get what you give’ logic. Thanks.

  • Great article – it feels great to receive a compliment, and even better to give one :)

  • Thanks for all the positive comments, guys!

  • Thanks for the nice post! I recognize a lot of positive personality traits from your article in a close friend of mine, from who I’ve tried to learn this stuff as well.

    It’s hard to describe why he’s such a great guy but you really notice everyone thinks so. I think you kinda hit it on the spot with “Positivity, appreciation and being able to genuinely express yourself are three attractive traits both in personal and professional relationships.”. He makes interpersonal relationships into an everyday party. Inspiring. I should tell him that more often :)

  • Thanks for you interesting commment, Bartjan! Yeah, there is something very appealing about people that have so much of those qualities that wherever they go they seem liven things up considerably.

  • thodarumm


  • Totally agree we do not appreciate others no-where enough.

    Is there an ‘appreciate someone’ day?

    Let’s propose it.

    I often find myself only appreciating someone when they are down or upset.

    Thanks for the refreshing reminder – I must appreciate much more often.


  • Rebecca Shanks

    How nice of you to encourage more kindness! We definitely need all we can get in this world. Thanks!

  • Well said and good advice! Compliments help everyone. Great site.

  • Nice article, we should all try to live like this.

  • jennie

    this is something i need to work on. perhaps i am too worried about myself to expand to other people. but i will give it a try! thanks for an influential article.

  • What a great article! Very inspirational and I shall aim to complement people more often! Thank you!

    When you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours!

  • Thank you very much for your insightful article. We all can learn from just being kind. Here is just a little add-on to your wonderful post. I hope you enjoy it as I enjoyed your!

    The word kindness immediately congers up a multitude of possibilities that are as diverse as you are unique. The one common thread however is that kindness is an inherent quality that we all possess. For a multitude of reasons it has become a principle that has been forfeited by many, and consequently, all too often selfishness and self centeredness trump the principle of kindness.

    There is an expression that I learned many years ago in my therapy practice that has been forever carved into my mind. It goes like this. “They might not remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Think about it? As you look at every interaction you can remember, ask yourself, “How did this person make me feel”? It is likely you won’t remember a great deal of the content, but it is very likely you’ll have a memory as to how you felt. You’ll probably recognize that the positive memories you recall are in part, based on experiencing authentic kindness, and in part, a recollection that you mattered to that person.

    As you go through your day to day existence, how many opportunities are presented to you to practice an act of kindness. It could take form with a kind word, a kind action or gesture, or helping a family member or colleague with some needed support. If you really take time to think about it, the times that we feel the best are when we are in service to others. We are wired to give, not to get. Understanding this principle is a key to feeling a sense of purpose and well being.

    There are natural laws that are engaged in the act of kindness that serve to reinforce the motivation to be kind at every opportunity presented. These natural laws help us to feel good about ourselves as well as experience a quiet joy and sense of satisfaction deep within. The following are just a few of the secret rewards and benefits that accompany a kind act.
    1. Selflessness. Thinking about the well being and care of another

    2. Respect: Treating others as equals.

    3. Integrity: Looking in the mirror at the end of the day and liking the person we were today.

    4. Love: A state of consciousness that gives and cares, for its own sake.

    5. Thoughtfulness: Making someone else’s life just a bit easier.

    6. Caring: The act of helping another breathe just a bit easier.

    Growing up, I definitely had my share of challenges. They mostly played out at the emotional level and would manifest in some pretty outlandish behavior. I had a lot of difficulties displaying kindness unless there was something in it for me. I remember having a sweet disposition but it was usually usurped with self centered thinking and behaviors that created some devastating consequences for me as I got older.

    My father would get quite exasperated with me at times and I must say that I gave him good cause. On one occasion however, I recall my father displaying one of my most memorable acts of kindness I ever experienced. I was 16 years old and I had just gotten my driver’s license. It was pouring down rain and I wanted to take my dad’s car and go to a friend’s house to visit. I called my father at his office and asked him if I could take his car. He told me no, since I didn’t have much practice at driving the big Bonneville, and due to the weather being horrible. I pleaded my case but he was unyielding.

    Being the 16 year old that I was, I chose to take the car anyway and have it back in the driveway before he ever got home from work. I made it to my friend’s house just fine, and I felt in control. I told myself that dad would never be none the wiser and all was well. It was time to head home giving myself ample time to drive in the inclement weather and still be home with time to spare.

    I had driven about 3 blocks when I approached a stop sign. I made a complete stop, and the traffic was clear in both directions (so I thought). As I pulled out onto a main road, I got plowed by a driver, smashing into the front left fender of the Bonneville. There we were, in the middle of the pouring rain with traffic all around us.

    To say I was terrified is an understatement. I did however, have the where with all to exchange information with the other driver. The Bonneville still ran, and after all of the information had been exchanged, I drove home with the fender scraping against the front tire in tears. I pulled the car into the driveway and I looked at the damage before entering the house. It was quite significant and I knew I’d have to tell my dad. I was terrified and I knew I was in deep water.

    My heart was pounding as I waited for my father to arrive home from work. I recall that as soon as he walked in the door drenched from the down pour, I ran up to him in tears and threw my arms around him explaining what I had done. I was so ashamed of myself and was very regretful. His fist words were “Are you okay and was anybody hurt”? I told him I was fine and the other driver hadn’t been hurt either.

    My father took off his coat and told me he would talk with me in a little while. He went out and took a look at his car, and when he came back he asked me to join him in the family room. He started out by telling me he was disappointed that I had not listened to him. He then went on to say that we would get things worked out together. As the days passed by and he dealt with the insurance companies and the woman I had hit, he kept me up to date on what was transpiring (she was claiming she had been hurt in the crash).

    My dad never raised his voice, didn’t shame me one time throughout the whole experience, stood by my side while at the same time held me accountable. I lost the privilege to drive for a while but never lost the connection with my dad due to his relentless kindness throughout the whole ordeal.

    We can have countless reasons, justifications and excuses to overlook the opportunity to display an act of kindness. In the end, it is really only ourselves that we hurt. What I mean by this is that we live in our own skin 24 hours a day, seven days a week, our whole life. The more we get “right” with ourselves, the more we can enjoy the journey. By living from a paradigm of love and compassion, whether it be in our work environment, at home, or the world at large the more experience wonderful, unexpected pleasures.

    To feel good most of the time, to feel a sense of meaning and purpose, is a direct result of letting go of excuses to forgo kindness when the opportunities present themselves.
    There is one form of kindness noteworthy of highlighting that stands above all other expressions of kind actions. Imagine being the catalyst that creates a moment in somebody’s life where they are pleasantly surprised, or the person that helps another individual or group of individuals to experience joy and gratitude. Now imagine that they don’t know the source of where the act of kindness came from. This anonymous act of kindness is second to none.

    Whether it’s raking up the leaves in an elderly neighbor’s yard, paying anonymously for somebody’s tank of gas, or just taking your neighbors garbage can up to their home after a garbage pickup, these acts of kindness will leave others feeling appreciative while you feel the quiet gratitude and joy.
    The secret: When we are kind to others we are really being kind to ourselves and the quality of our own life continues to improve. In addition, people will appear from all walks of life to share acts of kindness towards us.

    This is the essence of “The Law of Attraction” in action. Like any principle, expressions of kindness can be used for ulterior motives or be done from a position of selflessness. We do, however, need to practice these acts of kindness without any expectation of reward.

    As we look ahead to tomorrow and find ourselves enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday, see what you can do to share your authentic kindness throughout the day. May your holiday be filled with gratitude and joy. And remember, a kind word said or a kind action taken will ultimately be a gift to yourself

  • Fantastic post on how to be kind.