How to give a great compliment

According to the dictionary, a compliment is “ a polite expression of praise or admiration.” A compliment is a genuine expression of good will towards someone else and an acknowledgement that something they did is pretty rad. Giving good compliments can strengthen your relationships as well as create positive connections with new people. This can come in very useful IRL and online in pretty much every context. Everyone is craving connection and it feels really good when someone acknowledges you. On the other hand, giving bad compliments can make you seem creepy and manipulative. If you are not genuine, you will only succeed in alienating people instead of bringing them closer to you. Unless you enjoy being the resident creeper, here are some tips on how to give a fantastic, genuine compliment.

A compliment is polite — THIS IS CRITICAL. You cannot scream at someone on the street and call it a compliment. This is rude and scares people. That’s why cat-calling is absolutely never a compliment. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…What does that mean to be polite when complimenting someone? Pay attention to the other person’s social cues. Are they actively speaking to you? Are they facing you and looking you in the eye? Are they smiling at you? These are all good signs that they would be receptive to a compliment. If someone is initiating physical contact with you in conversation, this can also be a sign that they are comfortable with you and might appreciate a compliment.

A compliment praises someone — Here is the key component for the content of your compliment. If you are struggling with something to say, think of details you notice about the person. The more specific you can be with your compliment, the better (though note that it is a little odd if you get tooooo specific, like maybe compliment someone on the necklace they are wearing at the moment as opposed to say, the necklace you saw them wearing once in an Instagram post from 2 years ago). Giving praise means that you are remarking on a choice that someone made. Here are some examples of great compliments:

“Wow, that dress looks fantastic on you! I love your sense of style. Where did you get it?” — this is a good one because it mentions a quality about the person and a choice they have made. If you stop at just “nice dress” or “that dress looks nice on you,” you are really only remarking on the person as an object. It feels much better when someone compliments you on a choice you have made than on something you just happen to be. It also shows you’re curious to learn more about the person and care about their ideas.

“That article you wrote was so inspiring! I went and cleaned out my closet so I could donate some of my old stuff to charity after reading it.” — Who doesn’t like to feel like they’ve done something good in the world? This compliment is awesome because not only is it specific but it talks about the person’s positive effect on you. Now this person knows that they not only knocked it out of the park with their writing, but that they made you do something great as well.

A compliment shows your admiration for someone — This is where you have to do a bit of personal reflection and figure out what it is you actually admire about another person. It could really be any quality that you respect and want to see more of in yourself, or it could just be something extraordinary. The real key here is that it has to be genuine, whatever it is. True compliments come from a place of honesty otherwise they sound like creepy flattery, which is when someone only says something nice to you so that you will like them. Much like cat calling, this is not actually a compliment. Here is an example of compliment that shows admiration:

“Congrats on launching your new company! It’s amazing how hard you work on it. Cool to see someone really dedicate themselves like that.” This shows that you value your friend’s success and all the work that goes into it. Telling someone this would let them know that their efforts are not going by unnoticed and will give them the ego boost and possible encouragement they need to keep going. Now your friend knows that you value not only success but also the grit and determination that it takes to get to your goals, which will likely make them feel closer to you.

So, there you have it. The key components to a compliment are to be polite and show a genuine appreciation for someone’s abilities or qualities. Simple right? Now go out and make someone’s day.