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How To Give a Compliment and Mean It

Updated on January 2, 2014

There is nothing more meaningful than a sincere compliment.

A compliment has the power to melt self-doubt and insecurity, remind us of the things we like about ourselves, and encourage us to work harder.

When a compliment is given well, it can reassure someone of the best aspects of who they are and what they can accomplish. An authentic, meaningful compliment is a gift to the world, spreading gratitude and good will.

Be Specific

There is an enormous difference between a general compliment and a specific one.

"You look nice today," has much less of an impact than "Your new haircut looks fantastic!" Adding descriptive words or details make it less ambiguous and more clear that your compliment doesn't apply to just anyone.

Instead of telling your employee that she did a good job on a project, point out specifically what impressed you. Was it her extensive research? Her brilliant creativity? Her teamwork skills?

Think back on some of the most meaningful compliments you've ever been given. Go above and beyond a "you're so nice," and highlight how approachable someone is, or how good they are at making others feel comfortable.

Get Personal

Compliments hold even more meaning when they start with "I."

The best praise is more intimate and personal. "You did a good job on that report," is much less meaningful than "I noticed how much time and effort you put into that report, and it turned out really well."

It is especially important to get personal when you are complimenting someone on something that they did to benefit you. Don't assume that they know you appreciate them - say so!

Be Unusual

Think back to some of the compliments you have received. Which ones stand out in your mind?

How many people have told you that you have nice eyes? Or that you are very creative? Oftentimes, we receive the same type of compliments from people about our best characteristics. There is nothing wrong with this - it's always nice to hear that people consistently notice certain positive attributes - but the compliments that really stick with people for years are the ones that are a little more unexpected.

Instead of complimenting your spouse for being so reliable, take the time to point out one of their other great qualities!

Show That You Mean It

Body language means more than you think.

If your words are telling someone that they did a fantastic job planning the office Christmas party, but your arms are crossed and you won't look them in the eyes, the compliment falls flat.

Eye contact is a must. Leaning toward the person when you speak provides extra warmth.

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