8 Tips for Giving Sincere Compliments
Everyone likes getting compliments, but the art of effectively giving a compliment doesn’t always come naturally. When giving compliments try to be genuine and your kindness can go a long way. Here are some tips to help craft your kudos.
Compliments that are relevant are the most sincere. “Giving random compliments that can be easily transferred, such as ‘you’ve got great hair,’ will come across as superficial unless there is something really outstanding about the particular observation,” says Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas. “A compliment must be authentic, delivered in a meaningful tone of voice, using a genuine smile, and seem and feel believable.” These are the best compliments anyone can ever receive.
Find out what motivates the person
People loved to be complimented on their passions. “Knowing a little bit about your recipient will go a long way in making a compliment truly meaningful,” says Tina Mertel, an executive coach and facilitator of relationship-based training programs with offices in San Diego and New York. “Too many people give compliments on what they feel is important,” she says, “but if you want your compliment to be truly meaningful, first ask the recipient why they do what they do. Their answer will tell you what they find meaningful.” Not sure how to start? Here’s how expert minglers naturally make small talk.
Praise personal qualities
iStock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund
People are more likely to feel appreciated if you praise their personal qualities, rather than acquired talents. “Qualities like kindness, attention to detail, and stamina are more enduring than skills that are learned, like public speaking or project management,” says Tina Gilbertson, LPC, a Denver-based psychotherapist and the author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them. “Rather than complimenting someone on her skill at networking, highlight her friendliness, her generosity, or her warmth.” Find out what good listeners do in daily conversations.
Connect on many levels
The nature of a good compliment makes a person feel seen or heard, says Nick Fager, a psychotherapist based in New York City. “It’s less about complimenting their appearance and more about communicating that you see them,” Fager says. “It might mean saying something like ‘I’ve been noticing that this process has been hard for you, and yet you’re still managing to get through it.’” You’re speaking to the person’s authentic self, Fager adds, not some false self they project to fit in. “Having your authentic self-recognized and encouraged feels genuinely good,” he says. These tiny compliments are the key to a successful marriage.
General compliments may come across as inauthentic. Instead, focus your compliment on something specific, suggests Gretchen Kubacky, PsyD, a psychologist in Los Angeles. “Don’t just say ‘nice flowers’ say ‘what a gorgeous arrangement; I love how you created so much texture with one color of flower,’” she suggests. This way, the compliment is more directed and personal. These are the best compliments you can give to parents.
Consider ending your compliment with a question
Think about provoking a response by ending your compliment with a question. “This will immediately prompt a conversation without any awkward silence,” suggests Nihar Suthar, author of Win No Matter What: A Guide to Hyping Up Your Life. For example, instead of just saying, “You have amazing hair,” try, “You have amazing hair. Do you use any product in it?” This shows that not only do you appreciate the person’s hair, you’re genuinely interested in it. Watch out! Giving these compliments can actually be hurtful to your kids.
Deliver it with no agenda
Compliments are meaningful when the giver has no motivation besides being kind. A recent Psychology Today article notes that “the right compliment is sincere, respectful, is meted out in the right doses, and provides no obvious benefit to the giver.”
Compliment inner beauty
Compliment a person’s inner self and character above physical appearance can really boost the recipient’s self confidence. A CBS news article found that focusing on personality traits, efforts, and accomplishments was a much more powerful motivator than appearance alone.