The Magnificence of the Genuine Compliment
Words can heal, inspire, motivate and encourage. Everyone has the need to feel valued and the best way to show someone your appreciation is to offer them an honest compliment. According to Carl Jung, "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." In other words, appreciation is of no use unless it is expressed---out loud or even through the written word. Indeed, the compliment is a magnificent and necessary tool for incredible good. Well chosen words of gratitude have the power to heal and to make others feel valued as individuals.
Genuine compliments can literally nourish a life. For example, when a young child grows up in a home where kind remarks are generously given for all the proper reasons, there is no end to the good those life-giving words can accomplish for a young person growing into adulthood. On the reverse side, if a child grows up in a home where kind words are rarely spoken and where harsh words are the norm, that child will suffer greatly, and may never fully realize his or her worth, nor will they be able to receive praise graciously as adults, never having experienced positive feedback throughout their formative years.
The same principle, of extending gracious compliments, is valuable in every type of relationship, particularly in marriages or partnerships. If neither spouse compliments the other, you can pretty much bet that theirs is a miserable union. In fact, such a marriage may well be headed toward the divorce court unless both parties learn to stop finding fault with one another. Let's face it, there is nothing worse than being in a marriage where one feels unappreciated.
Compliments In Business
Even in business, if a supervisor never expresses approval for an employee's performance, you can bet that employee will feel unhappy, disgruntled, and much less enthusiastic about putting their best effort into their work. According to Professor Norihiro Sadato, of the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan, ”To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money." (Forbes Magazine)
A smart company will train their managers to give out accolades to deserving employees, rather than just "cracking the whip." Furthermore, those same companies have happier, more motivated and much more productive employees. This, in turn, creates a more "soulful" company.
"People who feel appreciated and respected are more motivated than those who think their efforts go unnoticed. They're more engaged in the work they do, and they're more committed to their teams and organizations, because they know that they're making a real difference."
Frankly, there is just no end to the value of giving good compliments. But how exactly can we make our compliments good? The first rule of thumb is to be genuine. The second rule is to never "lay it on too thick." If your compliments are phony, the receiver will sense it; your flattery will fall flat and might even cause the recipient to avoid you---which obviously defeats the purpose of saying something "nice." So the next time your employee turns in a thorough report, don't waste an opportunity to say something complimentary, such as: "“Thanks for the detailed attention you gave to completing that report. You covered all the bases really well.”
"Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones." -The Bible
"Don't tell a woman she's pretty; tell her there's no other woman like her, and all roads will open to you." - Jules Reynard, French Writer
"When a man spends his time giving his wife criticism and advice instead of compliments, he forgets that it was not his good judgment, but his charming manners that won her heart." - Helen Rowland
Six Suggestions For Giving Genuine Compliments
#1 Mean what you say. For example, If you're a man at a party who has a habit of complimenting every woman within arms distance, your compliments will not be well received. Women will be on to you in no time flat. However, if you compliment just a few women and also keep your words simple by saying, "I really like your earrings," or some such light comment, then your compliment will carry much more weight. Long story short, never be a fake. Most people sense when flattery is insincere. (This should go without saying, but it bears reminding.)
#2 Keep it short and sweet. Resist going on and on endlessly. You never want to end up embarrassing yourself and the person you tried to compliment. For example, if you really like a man's tie, then say, "That's a really nice tie," instead of also adding something like, "I'll bet you got it at Macy's. I saw the same one and I would love it if my husband would wear a tie like that, but of course he never will, but you do---and that's so great. I almost bought that same tie for him, but what's the point?" See what I mean? Your endless monologue takes away from the original compliment, thus leaving the recipient a little dazed and confused.....and not in a good way.
#3 Remember the personal touch. In other words, admire something specific about the individual. For example, to your friend who is a also young mother, say: "I really admire your parenting style. I can see how happy your children are." In this instance, you are sharing your sincere admiration for your friend's parenting skills. In fact, mom's of any age are always thrilled to hear they're doing something right and not messing things up where their children are concerned.
#4 Timing is everything. You needn't wait too long to say something nice to anyone you admire in some way. If you think something positive, say it. On the other hand, if you want to compliment the cashier at the supermarket, by all means, please wait until she has completed the transaction. Then you can say, "You're always so efficient and polite. Thank you." To be sure, she'll appreciate hearing some kind words---especially after a long day of standing on her feet. And by the way, if someone gives you a gift or has hosted a brunch for you, please do not wait too long to send a thoughtful note of thanks. No one should ever be too busy to take 15 minutes out of their lives to write a short but thoughtful note to someone who went to a lot of time and expense on your behalf. A little graciousness goes a long way.
#5 Expect nothing in return. Needless to say, your compliment will lack authenticity if you expect one in return. The rule of thumb is to give a compliment, and move on. Rest assured, your sweet words will linger in the mind of the person you complimented. Your thoughtfulness will bring a little more spring into their step, not to mention, some sweet balm to their souls. After all, who doesn't need more kindness in their lives? There is a lot to be said for sprinkling some healing around--here and there.
#6 Not only should we give praise with graciousness, we must also receive praise well. The last thing you want to do is throw a compliment back in someone's face. For example, if someone says, "You look really pretty," all you have to say is, "Thank you." Yep. That's it. A simple, kind, gracious, "Thank you for saying so" is the perfect response. The wrong thing to say is, "Well, I'm getting older, but I try to keep up my appearance, although it's not easy." or worse yet, "Are you kidding me? I look horrible." Sometimes you have to trust that you really do look better than you think you do and that the compliment was sincere.
Having said that, I truly understand what it feels like to be reluctant to accept or believe a compliment. When I was growing up, neither of my parents gave me or my brother much praise. (I know; it sounds pathetic.) Truth is, I think that "back in the day" parents didn't do much of that kind of thing. Kids were basically seen and not heard, nor necessarily congratulated for small triumphs and achievements. For sure, we didn't get a trophy every time we showed up for a ball game. (Either that, or I got conned big time! Ha!). So anyway, to this day, I have to stop myself from saying something really dumb, like... "Well, I got a late start due to a phone call and I didn't have enough time to fix my hair, so I'm kind of embarrassed." No. STOP! This is all wrong. The only thing we need to say is, "What a nice compliment, thank you so much."
"A compliment is a gift, not to be thrown away carelessly, unless you want to hurt the giver." - Eleanor Hamilton
Compliments in Marriages
At no other time are lovely words more fun to give and receive than when you are dating, and especially when you're actually married to the love of your life. If you want to keep the home fires burning brightly for the long haul, then all couples must absolutely pay each other compliments. In fact, any woman who doesn't thank her husband for going to work every day, or taking out the garbage or helping with dishes and dinner, or scraping the snow off the car every single winter is (I'm sorry to say) a fool.
The best way to get your beloved husband to do more good things is to let him know how much you appreciate the wonderful things he is doing right now. Ladies, never take your sweet man for granted because if you do, you're missing out on a whole lot of loving and true marital bliss. And if you nag instead of brag, he might just start longing for a woman who gives him a whole lot more appreciation than you do, if you catch my drift. It's so much easier to give a compliment and avoid all that foolishness and heartbreak and your marriage will be healthier for the extra effort at thoughtfulness.
Compliments From eHarmony:
"Man magnets understand the power of a compliment, and are not afraid to tell a man how much they like his shirt, how the color of his eyes really stands out, or that his haircut makes him look “handsome.” How does this makes men feel? Attractive, desired and manly.
The same rules apply for men complimenting women.
"Basically, instead of being over the top with flashy gifts, expensive dinners, and obvious compliments, true thoughtfulness is telling her that you were thinking of her today when she wasn’t around." Now that's excellent advice.
Speaking from personal experience, just hearing the simple words, "You are beautiful" always brings an instant smile to my face. Even sexier is, "You are a very desirable woman." Now that's a winner! The only warning I would add is that very beautiful women are used to being called "beautiful." They've heard it all their lives. It's not their fault. So now and again, it is also nice to dispense some killer compliments like the one's I've listed below, but only if you really mean them.
Compliments Women Love
- "You're one of the smartest women I know"
- "You can throw a fast ball with the best of them."
- "Nice arm!" (For the softball player in your life.)
- "I always feel comfortable talking to you."
- You make me feel like I can do anything I put my mind to, especially now that you have honored me by having me as your husband."
- "I can't imagine not having you in my life."
- "I love waking up beside you."
How often do you give compliments?
Now that you know what comprises a good compliment, there's no time like the present to take some meaningful action if you haven't already begun. Who in your life is sorely in need of some kindness? Go to them and compliment them. When I think of all the times I have failed to be generous with a few kind words, all I can do is hang my head in shame and admit that I was a selfish woman. But that was then, and this is now. And now I know better than I did before... and so do you. So the sooner we begin spreading the magnificent power of the genuine compliment, the better off everyone will be.
Compliments have a domino effect for good. Truly. And you never know---perhaps your knack for saying just the right thing at just the right time might inspire others to do the same. Just remember: A few well chosen words of gratitude are not just for a select few; rather, they are for anyone who deserves to be recognized for any good reason. Make it your mission is to keep your compliments personal and genuine. The world will be a better place for it.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, "Everybody likes a compliment."
References: The Art of the Compliment, by Christie Matheson
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Yves