A compliment is an expression of praise, congratulation, or encouragement. Marcia Naomi Berger, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in San Rafael, California, explains that feeling valued and appreciated are basic human needs. She says, “I would define a compliment as any sort of sincere appreciation of a trait in someone or a behavior or an appearance."
Berger added that behaviors that get complimented are likely to be repeated. For instance, if you tell someone that you like the way he smiled when you greeted him, he’s likely to smile again when he sees you.
Giving a compliment lets people know you have noticed something about them that you appreciate. Compliments are beneficial because they can help people have a better day than they are already having. Compliments often lift up a person's spirit when he is having a bad day or just an average day. In other words, compliments make people feel good by both giving compliments and receiving them.
Benefits of Receiving a Compliment
Researchers have discovered that receiving a compliment makes us feel good. They have also found that receiving a compliment actually activates the same parts of the brain that get activated when you are giving a gift or a monetary award.
That same group of researchers reveals that compliments may help people when it comes to learning new motor skills and behaviors. That's why you hear people give kids and others compliments where they are about to perform.
- "You got this."
- "I know you can do it."
- "You are good at doing similar things. So, you can do this as well."
Athletes perform better when they look in the stands and see a family member or friend with a look of approval on their face.
Effective Ways to Give Compliments
Giving someone a compliment can be a good conversation starter. You have probably seen people in the movies compliment one another on how they are dressed at a dinner party or a formal gathering. That is the way to break the ice with someone you know or with someone you are meeting for the first time. You don't need to know people to compliment them. (See my personal testimonies at the end of this article).
When you compliment someone, keep it short. It is not necessary to ask people where they bought something or how much it cost. Simply say, "Your suit looks nice." That is enough information to let the person know you noticed his new suit.
If you heard a speech that meant something to you, let the person know it by saying, "I was touched by your moving speech."
If you have had a recent telephone conversation with someone, follow up with a compliment. You could say something such as "I was inspired by what you said when we talked last week."
- Compliments should be sincere. People can sense when you are sincere. Pay attention and you will find something to compliment a person about without having to lie. There is no need to lie about something in the disguise of a compliment.
- Compliments should be specific. Refrain from using generic descriptions such as "You look nice." That could apply to all the people in the room. Call out something specific and unique such as "You look beautiful in that red dress you are wearing." That shows you are perceptive and the compliment is unique to the person and would not apply to others.
Learn to Accept Compliments
Even though accepting compliments with grace is just as important as giving compliments, some people are uncomfortable receiving compliments.
When you do not accept a compliment, it is an indirect way of saying the person is not telling the truth about what he is saying about you. Refusing to accept a genuine compliment is like refusing to receive a gift someone is handing you.
When someone compliments you, respond with a simple "Thank you." It is an indirect way of complimenting the person who has complimented you. It indicates that the person has good taste.
It is not just the receiver who benefits from a compliment. The giver also feels better after complimenting someone. When you do not accept someone's compliment, you are denying the giver of the compliment his chance of feeling good.
Believe me, all of these personal testimonies are true about compliments I have received on days when I needed and appreciated them the most.
- I was at a weeklong convention. By the end of the week, I had worn all my best-looking outfits. On the fifth day, I didn't like what I decided to wear. When I arrived at the convention center, a lady rushed over to me and remarked, "I see we have great taste." I thanked her and smiled because on that particular day we had worn outfits that were exactly alike. It was God letting me know that what I wore was appropriate. In a gathering of over 3,000 people, that woman saw me and was led to compliment me. She did it early so I would not worry the rest of the day about what I was wearing. That woman made my day.
- One I thought I was having a bad hair day, but I went grocery shopping anyway. While I was in the store, I noticed a man following up and down the aisles. I thought he was stalking me. Finally, he came close enough to compliment me on my hair. He said he was a barber, and he likes seeing women with a haircut like mine. That man made my day! It turned out not to be a bad hair day after all.
- On another occasion, I was out on a bad date in an exclusive restaurant. I knew I was looking good, but my date never complimented me. As we were leaving the restaurant, a woman ran up behind us and complimented me on my outfit. She was wearing one like it in a different color. I didn't get a compliment from my date, but God saw it fit for me to get one from an unknown person. Like the other examples, that unknown woman made my day.
So, go on and make someone's day. Give a compliment!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.