04/06/2014 10:11 am ET Updated Jun 06, 2014

The Incredible Power of a Compliment

Receiving a sincere compliment can have a huge impact on your outlook. The message may surprise you, touch your heart, or catapult you forward into a new career path. The most powerful compliment communicates the message, "I value you." Here are my tips on delivering an authentic compliment:

  • Be specific. I was recently walking out of the grocery store and complimented a well-dressed elderly woman on her colorful blouse. She stopped in her tracks and excitedly said, "Oh, thank you! I recently lost my husband and I was just praying for a sign on whether I should stay in this neighborhood, or move to another city to be closer to my daughter. Your smile caught my attention and when you mentioned my favorite orange blouse, I got my answer." While I'm not sure of her final decision to stay or leave, our friendly exchange was exactly what she needed at that particular moment in time. Mentioning her orange blouse was the key. Had I not been specific, the experience, and outcome, may have been different.
  • A single compliment may be all it takes. One simple act can make a difference. I recently overheard a story about a person who was interested in helping out a man in need. Willing to offer assistance financially, he asked the man what he truly needed. The disadvantaged man replied, "I'd really like a handshake." Sometimes the greatest compliment you can give another human being is to acknowledge them and let them know they are significant.
  • Wear your compliment like a badge of honor. When nothing seems to be going right, dig deep into your emotional pocket and pull out a past compliment that has helped define who you are today. One that made a significant difference in my life was a compliment I received when I was much younger, working at a "beeper store." I was an underpaid, overworked counter girl, in charge of "trouble shooting technology," aka replacing old batteries from business people's beepers. I was unhappy at my new job, but afraid to make a change. One day my boss aggressively walked up to the counter, and in front of three businessmen barked, "You are not what this pager company needs." One of the men standing at the counter firmly spoke up, "He's right, Diane... you are meant for much more than this." I was struck by his kindness and his positive support in the face of my public humiliation. Instantly, I felt empowered. I hugged a perfect stranger, got my purse, walked out and never looked back. A strong compliment can last a lifetime.
  • Be impeccable with your words and generous with your praise. There is an obvious difference between a genuine remark and a thoughtless statement meant to patronize or falsely elevate. While you may want to say something nice to another person, find something that is genuine to comment on. When your colleague does a great job on an important project, compliment them on their success. If your competitor got the job over you, send a note of congratulations. Drop your guard, put down your competitive armor, and give yourself permission to revel in someone else's success. Make your words strong and reliable.
  • A compliment is good manners. Your mother taught you if you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all. But, why not find something positive in every situation and give kudos to those that made the experience possible? Looking at the glass half empty isn't as rewarding as looking at the glass half full.
  • Don't miss an opportunity. While working on my master's degree, I interned at an Alzheimer's Day Center. I was in charge of attending to a particular client, his name was LC, and most of the time he was not lucid. But, occasionally, he was alert and able to communicate fascinating stories with amazing details from his youth. I was particularly struck by LC's gentle eyes and kind smile. Even though I wasn't sure he would understand, I often thought of thanking him for sharing his life with me. Unfortunately, I always second-guessed myself and felt awkward or embarrassed. One day I decided to say, "LC, you have made an impact on my life by sharing your stories with me." To which he promptly and clearly replied, "Thank you. I am doing the best I can." His eyes filled with tears as he grabbed my hand, held on tight, and smiled the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. He understood. That experience changed my world. Whose world could you change if you seized the occasion?

A compliment wields great possibility. It shows respect, admiration, approval, gratitude, trust, appreciation, and hope. One of the most generous things you can do in your life is to give someone else a true and meaningful compliment. I encourage you to start with the next person you encounter.

For more of Diane's tips on the art of the compliment, you may also like: Mannerly Tips on How to Receive a Compliment. Visit Diane's blog, connect with her here on the Huffington Post, follow her on Pinterest and "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook.