THE BLOG

Are the Compliments We Are Giving Actually Making a Positive Impact?

06/17/2015 01:57 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2016

Complimenting others comes naturally to many of us. It resonates so much for us because praise can increase connection between people, encourage positive behavior and can be a powerful tool for the giver to express an optimistic observation.

Receiving compliments is also impactful because it fulfills two of our very basic needs -- the need to feel loved and the need to feel important.

It's the way we choose to give a compliment which makes all the difference.

Consider the following compliments:

"You're awesome," or "That's a pretty dress," or "Good job"

The thing about it is that if you say to someone that they did a good job it implies they could have done a bad job -- it is basically a judgment whether a negative or more positively inclined one. It is a very subjective comment (one person's job well done can be another person's disaster) but instead masquerades as an objective observation.

These types of comments can come across as superficial, insincere or in the best case scenario - vague.

So how can we move away from this into a more authentic way of sharing something worthy with the other person?

Here are five ways that can help get you started:

1. Always be genuine
Giving a genuine compliment illustrates a sense of awareness and consciousness about the other person. It shows that you connected to yourself and noticed something someone did that was impactful to you in some way -- and then chose to verbalize it. So check in with yourself to note the why behind your compliment.

2. Go deeper
It's easy to compliment others on objects that they buy, use, and wear. In this case you are really complimenting the manufacturer of the material element or at best the person's taste. Take it to the next level by looking at the person's behaviors, traits and actions -- these are the areas we really want to be acknowledged for. What have they done that has made an impression on you?

3. Keep it personal
Own the compliment. Start it with "I" instead of "you." This reinforces that the compliment is your opinion (which it is) instead of a fact of life.

4. Be specific
Give a concrete observation of what the other person did. Make sure it is objective -- pretend a video camera has captured the person's behavior. Include this in your compliment.

5. Tell people how you feel and why
We are sometimes so disconnected from our feelings that this might be a challenge for some of us and yet this is the part which will really have the most impact on the other person. Tell them how their action made an impression on you by expressing the feelings that arose in response to their behavior. For example, "I was delighted when (insert observation)," and then tell them why: "I felt so grateful when you finished your report a day before the deadline as it allowed me to get started on it earlier"

It might sound like a lot of work to just give a compliment, and yet if we are coming from a place where we want more meaningful connections with people we might have to challenge some or our "givens" -- this might include complimenting in a completely novel way.