Consider the power of a simple, sincere compliment. We may not think much about the act of complimenting, but research and long experience testify to its power. In fact, compliments and appreciation are at the core of healthy, sustaining relationships. Compliments improve social interactions and generate happiness. Timely, authentic compliments in the workplace have been shown to have a greater positive impact on productivity than cash bonuses—and for good reason. Cash bonuses are often thought to be late reward dollars for something a long time ago that is overdue and already earned. To paraphrase Mark Twain, a compliment is among the rarest human gifts to give, and it adds to the happiness of the person who delivers it.
When we offer a compliment, we communicate the message, “I notice you.” Being noticed conveys value in the recipient. Depending on the content of the compliment, it can convey admiration, appreciation, approval, thankfulness, respect, and even trust.
In times like these, we would do well to make giving compliments a habit. Compliments can be our contribution to counter the negativity so powerfully present in our world. Communicating a message of value and worthiness can make a difference in the moment, in the day, and even in the lives of others, even though we are often not privy to the impact a simple, sincere compliment can have.
Framing an impactful compliment is not difficult. Consider these elements:
- Be specific. A general comment can be pleasant but focusing on a specific action calls out what is noteworthy and will carry greater meaning.
- Be sincere. Authenticity matters. Insincerity can leak through in the tone of our voice and non-verbal behavior. Compliments are rarely rejected, unless the recipient detects that it is offered with an ulterior motive.
- Be generous. There is little reason to skimp or hold back when we compliment. Understatement deprives the recipient of the full impact of our message.
- Focus on actions over appearance. The context within which compliments are offered matters. Complimenting the way in which a person managed a situation, a choice they made, or a challenge they met addresses elements they can control. Further, compliments offered regarding appearance, especially in the workplace and with people we do not know well, can be interpreted as objectification rather than admiration.
- Resist qualifying. Offer the compliment and stop. Adding qualifiers and caveats undermines our message and can leave the recipient wondering if there is a hidden element embedded in our words.
- Don’t wait. When we see the need or opportunity to compliment, we need to do so. Waiting can lead us to forget and delay can undermine the impact we want to have.
A final thought: It is difficult to over-compliment if we are sincere. People rarely tire of being noticed, appreciated, and admired. If we want to counter the negativity we experience in our world, we can start by making compliments a priority. Remember, there are seven negatives in the environment for every positive. If you can’t create positives and balance scores, you can let the negative over power us to win.