It’s somewhat alarming to me how many social kindnesses are rapidly going the way of the dodo. But the effect of a simple and sincere compliment is still as profound as ever. If you’ve gotten out of practice, getting ready to give a compliment may very well make the back of your neck go all tingly. Take that as an indicator of the positive power in what you are about to do. (And isn’t it wonderful how alive that *zing* makes you feel?)
Maybe you’re a leader who is committed to honing your skills as far as praising and encouraging those around you on a regular basis.
Maybe you want to know how to compliment a girl or guy you like. (Note: If you’re looking for self-serving pick-up lines, I’m afraid you’ll need to visit a different kind of blog.)
Perhaps you’ve been really wanting to show your appreciation for a family member, but it feels foreign and a little weird.
Or maybe you just aren’t sure how to compliment anyone at all in a way that will be well received.
Well, this one’s for you. Here are some guidelines for how to compliment others with class and maximum effectiveness:
how to compliment: the lead-up
A compliment should be sincere. To compliment on something that you’re not convinced is really all that terrific, just for the sake of “saying something nice,” usually just winds up feeling awkward for both parties. Instead, a compliment should reflect some real thought on your part as to the outstanding qualities of the person you will be complimenting.
Avoid the common pitfall of giving what I call “backhanded compliments” — compliments with a qualifier tacked on due to nerves, wit, mixed motives or insincerity. A couple of examples are “You’re pretty smart . . . for a girl” or “You’re really fun to hang around with, when I actually ever hear from you.”
A compliment should be given solely as a gift to the receiver, and not in hopes of getting something in return. This means that slurring “Hey, baby, how’d you get your bad self in them jeans?” at the club doesn’t really count for our purposes. Nor does schmoozing to get a sale – or even just a favorable response like admiration that turns the focus back onto yourself. Know your motives and be honest about them. Insincere or self-serving flattery is hollow and usually backfires.
how to compliment: the focus
While complimenting someone on an article of clothing or a haircut is all well and good, the best compliments are those that reflect character and action:
“You have a great smile.”
“I think it’s amazing how much you care about other people.”
“I admire the way you let that older man go first in line.”
The more of those tingly sensations you get as you prepare to deliver a compliment, the more likely you are getting at something real about the person.
The best compliments are specific. “You’re really awesome” would be even better as “You really cheered me up today when I was feeling down. You do that a lot for people!”
how to compliment: the delivery
A compliment is a gift of time and focus as much as it is a gift of words. Always make eye contact when giving a compliment in person. And, if you know it, use the person’s name. Eye contact and hearing one’s name have a way of causing heartfelt words to sink in even deeper.
Of course, not every compliment must be given in person. I’m a big fan of texting compliments throughout the day, sending short emails that have no purpose other than the compliment, and, yes . . . sending those outdated thingies called letters and cards. You’d be surprised how special someone feels when they know you took the time to hand write a note or card and drop it off at the post office.