Good communicators know the value of being generous with their compliments of others. The word compliment is a noun with four definitions, all of which indicate we need to be giving away more of them:
*An expression of praise, commendation, or admiration.
*A formal act or expression of civility, respect, or regard.
*A courteous greeting; good wishes; regards.
*A gift; present.
Why We Don’t Give Compliments
A few myths may be standing in our way.
Myth: Recipients will get big heads.
Truth: Their heads are already big.
We fear that telling someone how good they are at something will somehow turn him or her into an egomaniac. In truth, if someone is an egomaniac, he or she probably got there without your help. Good communicators practice what is right regardless of the circumstances. In fact, withholding a well-deserved compliment is a sign of egomania. We need to change focus. Complimenting others reduces the risk that the giver will become self-centered. If someone is an egomaniac, does that negate the fact that he or she did something right or possesses other admirable skills and qualities?
In his book Be a People Person, John C. Maxwell says this about relating to others:
“What is the key to relating to others? It’s putting yourself in someone else’s place instead of putting them in their place.”
We withhold compliments from individuals as a form of punishment. We think withholding a compliment puts a person in his or her place. Who are we to do that? Withholding doesn’t make others any better, it only makes us worse.
Myth: My compliments won’t make a difference.
Truth: That is not your decision to make
If we believe that our compliments won’t make a difference, we have erroneously trespassed into the mental space of thinking we know what will and will not work on others. Good communicators know that their job is to give away compliments. How they are received is not up to the giver.
Just because your wife always looks beautiful doesn’t mean she doesn’t want/need to keep hearing it. Even if she rolls her eyes and scoffs at your compliment, that is not a reflection on you. That is a reflection on her.
The compliments you give today could lay the groundwork for a major change in someone’s tomorrow. [Tweet That]
Myth: Giving compliments makes me look like a brown-nosing, kiss-up.
Truth: Compliments show your strength and security.
Only insecure people have issues complimenting others. Remember that “calling someone ugly doesn’t make you look prettier” and give credit and esteem where it is due. It doesn’t take anything from you.
One friend thought people were supposed to do their jobs and shouldn’t expect or need to be complimented for doing the minimum.
When you compliment the minimum, you encourage the maximum in others. I don’t advocate throwing a person a party because she showed up on time for work all week. That is overboard. But what’s wrong with saying, “Janet, I appreciate the integrity you show to be on time every day”? Not only does it let Janet know you admire her commitment to herself and the company, it also encourages her to keep it up.
How to Give Great Compliments
- Focus on character or skill.
Give compliments that are character- and skill-based. Character-based compliments tell people they are valued for who they are. Skill-based compliments tell people you notice their abilities. Focus on the joy of complimenting. Doing so develops your character as a giver.
- Look for the opportunity.
You find whatever you look for. Be purposeful to look for the opportunities to give compliments. Some people are easier to compliment than others. Don’t show favoritism. Compliment everyone. Everyone has something positive they contribute. You just have to look for it.
- Be genuine.
Insincere compliments damage trust and build suspicion in others. [Tweet That] Only compliment the things that you actually really appreciate.
- Start small.
Start with obvious things. Don’t reserve compliments for big things. Get into the habit of complimenting and when something big happens you will already know how to say it.
- Be consistent.
Don’t limit yourself to giving a set number of compliments a day (although you could set a “minimum” goal if you need that type of structure). Just be consistent in developing your complimenting skills. If it has been a while since you complimented someone or something, it is time.
“Most of us think wonderful things about people, but they never know it. Too many of us tend to be tight-fisted with our praise. It’s of no value if all you do is think it; it becomes valuable when you impart it.” ~John Maxwell
Let go of trying to figure out how people are going to react or how you’ll be perceived. You can’t control either response. Complimenting another is a communication skill that needs to be performed frequently—not just for the transforming power it has on the receiver, but also for the transforming power it has on the giver.
What is the best compliment you have ever received?