August 11, 2009

Learning to compliment effectively

Complimenting is attractive for many people. Most people prefer to and view it as more constructive to say something positive than to say something negative. After all, who does not want to be appreciated for what he does? Although everybody makes mistakes now and then, most people mean well, don't they? This way of reasoning is surely plausible which may explain why I frequently hear people saying that is good and important to compliment frequently. They claim that this is the best way to motivate people. It is correct that complimenting can be useful. An adequate compliment provides us with the type of feedback that can help us become aware of which of our behaviors are effective. Furthermore, a compliment can make you realize that there is someone who is paying attention to you and who feels involved with what you do. This is why complimenting effectively can be useful in different contexts like parenting, education, management and co-operation. But is complimenting really always so pleasant and motivating? There are also people who are skeptical about the use and value of complimenting. Some say that they often see compliments as insincere and exaggerated as if it were some kind of trick. Others say they often get suspicious when they are complimented ("What does he want from me?"). Still others say they don't like to be complimented because it gives them the impression that the other person looks down on them (“Who does he think he is to judge me?).
What's the deal with compliments? Are the advocates right or the skeptics? My answer is that both the advocates and the skeptics are right. Complimenting can be valuable but only in certain circumstances and when done skilfully. In those cases the advantages can be achieved while negative side effects can be prevented. Below I will first explain some negative consequences which can occur when complimenting is done ineffectively. Then I will give some practical suggestions for complimenting effectively. Read on.


  1. One of the most interesting approaches I've found comes from NVC.

    Basically, the compliment is a better form of "Thank you!"
    And in this "thank you" you mention the specific action that the person did, your need that was fulfilled by the actions of that other person and the way you feel because of that need being fulfilled. You say nothing about that other person, you only talk about yourself, your needs. The magic is that the other person will connect emphatically to you and your joy will be his or her joy and this is more than any compliment can hope to achieve.


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