How to Give a Sincere Compliment
Use these 15 tips to become a pro at praising people in a way they will really appreciate.
The best way to give a compliment
Everyone likes getting compliments but giving them can feel like walking a tightrope, blindfolded. Knowing how to give a great compliment is one of the secrets of naturally charming people but for many of us, it doesn’t always come naturally. If that’s you, don’t fret; this is definitely a skill you can learn! Here are some expert tips to help craft your kudos.
“The number one rule for giving a great compliment is to be genuine and sincere,” says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, author, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. An authentic comment will come across as meaningful, memorable, and make the person feel special while a fake platitude can feel worse than nothing at all, making the person wonder if you couldn’t find anything real to compliment them on. Plus it can backfire—giving an insincere compliment can make you seem self-centered or untrustworthy, she explains. These strategies can help you build trust with your coworkers.
Mind your body language
When it comes to giving a great compliment, how you say it just as important as what you say, Gottsman says. “For a compliment to feel authentic, it needs to be delivered in a meaningful tone of voice, with a genuine smile, and eye contact,” she explains. This is also why a compliment given in person is more effective than one given over a text, she adds. Not sure where to begin? Start with these 10 small compliments you should be giving every day.
Nix the body talk
Who doesn’t like to hear that you find them attractive? A lot of people, it turns out. Commenting on someone’s body may be appropriate when you’re talking to someone you have a close personal relationship with, like a family member or best friend, whom you know will appreciate it. But you should avoid all body comments with coworkers, casual acquaintances, or strangers, says Wyatt Fisher, PsyD, a licensed psychologist in Boulder, Colorado. “Comments about their body or general looks can make them feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or even harassed,” he explains. Plus, it’s kind of a lazy compliment and may make you seem superficial. Instead, for a better ice breaker, try one of these 50 cheesy pickup lines so funny you’re guaranteed to get a laugh.
Highlight things about them that they chose
If you do decide to compliment something about a person’s appearance, steer clear of statements about their body parts (things they often can’t control anyhow), and focus on something they chose, like their stunning handbag or interesting hat, says Bonnie Tsai, founder of Beyond Etiquette. “Compliments like ‘you’re gorgeous’ or ‘you have beautiful eyes’ may seem like a good idea at the time, but they may not be received in the same manner you intended,” she explains. “When you compliment something they chose, what you’re really complimenting is their good taste or sense of style.” Not sure what to say when meeting someone new? Start with these 37 conversation starters that make you instantly interesting.
Don’t generalize the compliment to a group
Any compliment that you tack on the phrase, “for a [insert gender, race, age, or class]” is likely not a compliment and may be a subtle form of racism, sexism, or other problematic biases, says Irina Baechle, LCSW, a relationship therapist in North Carolina. For example: “You look so good for a woman over 50.” “You’re so articulate for a black person.” “You’re in such good shape for a mom.” “You’re so smart for someone who’s never been to college.” “You’re so funny for a girl.” You never need whatever follows the “for”; just say “You’re so lovely/well-spoken/fit/intelligent/funny” and leave it at that, she says. Otherwise, you run the risk of giving a compliment that is actually an insult.
Tailor general compliments
One of the best ways to show you are sincere is to focus your compliment on something that applies to that person specifically, Gottsman says. “Giving compliments that can easily apply to anyone, such as ‘you’re great,’ will come across as superficial unless there is something really outstanding about the particular observation,” she says. If you must use one, she recommends tailoring it to that person, such as, “You’re the best, you’re so kind to always volunteer to help,” These are the best compliments anyone can ever receive.
Find out what they’re passionate about
Even a genuine compliment about someone’s appearance can feel superficial; going a little deeper will show you’re truly interested in them as a whole person, Gottsman says. “Find out what they’re passionate about—complimenting their efforts in regards to a favorite hobby or cause will make them feel good and help build a connection,” she says. In addition, this type of compliment helps keep a conversation going. You can only say so much about someone’s shoes but you can talk for hours about a passion, she adds. Not sure how to start? Here’s how expert minglers naturally make small talk.
Recognize their hard work
When someone has done something really big or important, nothing feels better than to have that accomplishment acknowledged by others, Tsai says. “This recognizes that this is something they were personally responsible for and put a lot of work and effort into,” she explains. And think beyond their job; things like sending a kid off to college, completing a home-improvement project, running a race, or going back to school are all worthy of compliments. These are 13 of the best compliments you can ever give a parent.
Pay attention to what’s happening in their life
A good compliment makes a person feel seen and heard, communicating that you are interested in what’s happening in their life, says Nick Fager, LPC, a psychotherapist based in New York City. “It might mean saying something like ‘I’ve been noticing that changing jobs has been hard for you, and I think you’re handling this so well,’” he says. To do this you need to be a good listener and make note of what your loved ones are going through. These tiny compliments are the key to a successful marriage.