How to give great compliments.

COM•PLI•MENT // noun // a polite expression of praise or admiration.  

An authentic comment will come across as meaningful, memorable, and make the person feel special. An insincere compliment usually feels worse than nothing at all; it can make the person wonder if you couldn’t find anything real to compliment them on.

A real compliment must have no motive other than kindness. People can often tell when you have an agenda and will likely feel that you are untrustworthy. A compliment, like all communication, is so much more than the words. Your intentions and mindset should be of connection and respect, and not as something on a checklist. Also important is the nonverbals such as the timing and the setting, as well as your tone.

If you think it … say it. Don’t hold back; say it as soon as you feel it.  Other people really appreciate genuine compliments. They like to feel seen and appreciated for who they are. Highlight qualities you personally admire or appreciate in them. 

A good compliment is …

Genuine, authentic. Your compliments should be appropriate to the circumstances. If you lay it on too thick, they will question your veracity. “You have a fine eye for details. It’s the little things all together that really make this project pop.” “I admire your strength in how you dealt with that.”

Full. As applicable, include how your life (or the lives of others) has been positively impacted by them. “I feel so calm when I am around you.” “I knew I could count on you. You always know just what to say to pull me out of a funk.”

Specific, detailed.  General compliments may come across as inauthentic, thoughtless, or lazy. Instead, focus your compliment on something specific.  Think about the nuances of what they did and communicate that.  “Getting down on eye level with that kid really helped him calm down. You have a knack with kids.” The person will feel genuinely complimented as your statement feels personal and thoughtful.

Unique, not cliché. Your words should show that you really are attentive to who they are, and not some typical cliche compliment. “Your outlook on life is so refreshing.”  Not cliches such as “You are so amazing.” “I always have such a fantastic time with you.” “That was great.”

Be heartfelt. Throw some emotional language into your genuine compliment.  Make yourself vulnerable.  “I so appreciate what you did. You made me feel so special. You are so thoughtful.”  “I so cherish our friendship.”

You can follow your compliment with a question. Asking them to share is a compliment and it shows that you care about what they think. “Your perspective is so refreshing. How did you come to that way of looking at it?” “What’s your secret?” “Where did you get the courage to do that?”

What you might compliment on

Sometimes, a compliment is easy. The other person did something so wonderful, and you so appreciate it, you know just what to say.  Other times, you have to put some consideration into how to express your thoughts.

Your words should be about something that is meaningful to the other person; if it feels trivial, it will miss its mark.  Notice what matters to them. Listen in to what they share, what they are proud of, what they are working on, their perspectives.

The best compliments talk to the person that they are. Highlight their qualities or personality, such as their commitment, their sense of adventure, their curiosity. achievements or thoughts. ​”You seem so committed to that.” “That takes guts. Wow.” “It’s amazing how far you got in that.” “Your determination and hard work paid off; you are really good at …”  “I admire your determination when you strongly believe in something.”

You can also comment on their achievements, thoughts and ideas. “That is such a great way of looking at it.” “Your support made this project possible for me.” “You have such a clear way of thinking; you really helped me see …” “Your perspective on life makes me want to live more thoughtfully.” “That is such an interesting idea, I’m so excited to try it.” “That project came out so well. I love this particular detail.”

What is not a good compliment

Avoid vague generalities and hyperbole, such as exaggerations to make things sound like the best, the biggest, the coolest thing EVER.  “You’re the best cook” “You are the greatest.” Hyperbole has no place in a genuine compliment.  It actually makes the compliment rather empty.

Comments about their body or general looks are kind of a lazy compliment. It can also make you seem superficial. Such comments make most people feel uncomfortable, or embarrassed. It is as if you didn’t notice the person they are.  You can compliment someone on something they chose, “You have great taste; I love how you combined those colors.” “I love your sense of style, what a fabulous bag.” (Save compliments about looks for those with whom you are very close.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *