You're Doing It Wrong, Moron: 5 Tips for Giving Better Compliments

by Chris Birk on 27 January 2011 2 comments

There’s no denying that people love words of affirmation. Everyone enjoys being told when they do an exceptionally good job or when they look nice on a special day. 

Then again, receiving compliments is a relatively simple and passive experience. Giving legitimate, truly thoughtful, and heartfelt compliments is something else entirely. In an era of instant, faceless communication, the art of giving meaningful compliments might be headed the way of the dodo.

Thought and intention are a big part of the problem. A lot of us regularly offer compliments to friends and loved ones. But those words so easily bleed into the background, tossed out with minimal thought or no real consideration.

A genuine compliment can boost work performance, change a person’s outlook on their day, or do countless other things you'll probably never know. Here are few tips for giving genuine, thoughtful compliments.

Be Sincere

Don’t give a compliment just because you want to be in someone’s favor. Others can tell when you are being insincere, which can spell bigger troubles and doubts about your intentions and character. When you give a compliment, make sure that you actually mean your words.

Avoid the Usual

Anyone can say “good job” or “nice outfit.” These types of generic compliments tend to have little impact on the recipient. When you give a compliment, make sure you wait for the opportune moment and embrace specificity. Choose words that embrace something truly exceptional. Not only will this demonstrate your awareness, but it will also let the recipient know their efforts are noticed and appreciated.

Consider the Appropriateness

Not only is being specific important, but choosing the right words can also make a world of difference. Always make sure that the compliments you are giving aren’t backhanded or gender-specific. Comments about a coworker's appearance can easily tread into dangerous waters; it's always important to consider the setting and the environment for the compliment.

Remain Humble

A compliment is intended to benefit the person who receives it. Once you give someone a compliment, don’t repeat yourself until you receive a “thank you.” Simply give your compliment and politely carry on with your other tasks.

Be Yourself

You don’t need to put on a big show to give a compliment.  All you need to do is be yourself and deliver your compliment in a polite and efficient manner. Giving a compliment without having to become a different person will also make the compliment more sincere.

Delivering great compliments will not only make you feel good, but it will also help brighten the day of others. In a world where everyone seems to always be facing a computer, TV, or phone screen, take the time to let those around you know about the exceptional things they are doing by telling them face to face.

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Will Chen's picture

Good job Chris!

Julie Rains's picture

I agree that being very specific when giving compliment is beneficial. This approach works for at least a few reasons: it shows that you are being sincere and not currying favor, it shows that you notice details, and it reinforces positive attributes that you may want to encourage.