The Fine Art of: Giving & Getting Compliments

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“Your hair looks great like that.” “You make the best apple pie!” Who doesn’t love hearing nice things? Compliments are important aspects of our daily interactions; they can help you start new relationships and strengthen existing ones. But do you know how to properly give a really good compliment? And do you know how to graciously accept one in return? If your social skills could use a little polishing, follow these simple tips.

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Be sincere. If you’re throwing out the same phrase (“You look nice.” Or, “I love that dress!”) every time you walk into a room, your praise will become commonplace and carry less weight. Believe what you say so others will too.

Be specific. Generic compliments don’t mean as much as calling attention to something truly special. Use complimenting as an opportunity to widen your vocabulary. Try to use creative descriptive words instead of ordinary ones. Think about great compliments you’ve gotten and emulate them.

Be appropriate. Particularly with members of the opposite sex, be careful with compliments about physical appearance. And reserve compliments that are highly personal for family and close friends.

Go deeper. Many times we compliment superficial things, but we should pay attention to people’s actions and character too. When you see someone do (or not do) something that impresses or pleases you, let them know.

Be content. Giving a compliment should stem from your desire to make someone else feel good, not a wish for gratitude. There’s a good chance you’ll receive an honest “thanks!” for your kind words, but that shouldn’t be your motivation.

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Don’t deflect. Many people have a hard time accepting a compliment, and their knee-jerk reaction is to push it away or disagree with the complimenter. You may think you’re being modest (and maybe you truly are), but it can come off as rude. Think of a compliment as a gift. If a friend, or even a stranger, handed you a present, would you just put it down and walk away?

Do believe in yourself. If someone is giving you a sincere compliment, you deserve it. Listen to what they are saying, and let the way they see you help you build self-esteem.

Don’t fish for more. False modesty is really annoying, and again, even if you are truly not confident enough to own the praise being given, a long string of “Oh, it was nothing,” and other similar phrases forces the complimenter to keep them coming and can seem arrogant.

Do smile and say thanks. And let the complimenter know that you are really grateful with statements like, “Thanks so much for noticing,” “Thanks. I worked really hard on it,” or “Thanks. It was a lot of fun to do.”

Do share the love. If you’ve been complimented on a success that was a team effort, give the others involved the credit they deserve by recognizing them in your “thank you.”

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