How to Give a Compliment: Explore the Power of Kind Words

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learning how to give a compliment

National Compliment Day is getting closer! Again and again, we try to figure out what are the benefits of giving compliments. You might think it is an outdated social convention or insincere flattering. Others feel that kind words are a beautiful way to make someone smile. Scientists claim that giving and receiving compliments makes us feel better. Who is right? Let’s explore!

What Is a Compliment? 

I say “a compliment,” and you might immediately picture a nineteenth-century dining party, with guests chattering: “Such a nice hat you’re wearing today!” “Thank you, my dear friend! Your shoes are stunning!” or something along these lines. 

Indeed, we often associate complimenting words with following social niceties and saying something about outlooks. However, by definition, a compliment is “an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration.” I would also add the word “genuine” or “sincere” to this formula. As you can see, there is nothing about being polite and following the etiquette in the name itself! Let’s abandon these stereotypes. Outward beauty and clothing items are hardly the only things we feel respect and admiration for, so why don’t you start marveling at someone’s character, stamina, and achievements? 

What Is the Power of a Compliment? 

Sincere compliments are always crucial in close relationships—and not just on National Compliment Day. They strengthen our bonds, let us show appreciation, and sparkle gratitude. In other words, they just make us better people.

But addressing a compliment to a person you barely know is also quite valuable! Knowing how to give a compliment is a perfect ice-breaker when you enter a new environment (like a new group at college) or a good entry-line for small talk. Moreover, complimenting someone’s job boosts their performance! Use this secret weapon when you’re working on a group assignment, for example.

If you are still in doubt about the power of compliments, check out this video created by SoulPancake. Just watching people being grateful to each other makes me cry. Imagine how inspired and worthy people start feeling when they hear all these words of appreciation! These people give excellent examples of how to give a compliment that is touching and sincere—learn from them!

In the video, most participants know each other well, and some have lived side by side for years. Even so, it appears they kept a lot of compliments and words of gratitude a secret, and only in this show they finally uttered these things. The takeaway is simple—never hesitate to speak up about your affection and admiration for your loved ones.

The Science behind Compliments 

In multiple scientific experiments, people were giving each other compliments under all kinds of circumstances. They knew each other well or were perfect strangers; some worked or studied together, while others were household members. In all these situations, people giving and receiving compliments felt much better about themselves. Here are some details.

One research has shown that participants who were given compliments about their performance completed the subsequent tasks much better! Compliments we hear make us learn faster—I bet good teachers use this psychological trick all the time. 

Surprisingly, receiving a compliment makes us feel as good as when getting cash! The same part of the brain responds to these two stimuli. This fun fact shows the better side of us humans: we are ready to do something not only to get a monetary reward but also to be appreciated and hear kind words. 

How to Give Someone a Compliment

Whether you’re a friend, a child, a college student, a boss, or an employee—it is beneficial to learn how to compliment someone. A sincere, kind word can easily win your classmates’ favor! Although giving a compliment takes just a few moments, some of us simply can’t turn to somebody and say: “You made an awesome presentation yesterday!” Why is it so? 

Sometimes, we are afraid that a person will react negatively to our expression of appreciation and gratitude. Luckily, there is a trick that can help you overcome this fear—imagining the most awful scenario. Let’s say you compliment your groupmate on their presentation, and this person… (continue yourself). I bet even if this person rudely asks you to keep your mouth shut (my catastrophic scenario), it’s not the end of the world… Moreover, you’ll now learn whom to avoid in the future and how to compliment people instead of making them mad. Therefore, your uneasiness when giving a compliment might be superfluous, and you can steadily learn to overcome it.

Another problem we face when giving compliments is low self-esteem. This feeling of self-unworthiness makes it hard to verbally acknowledge some qualities in other people, especially the qualities you think you lack (but you actually do have them, trust me). However, when you openly appreciate other people’s successes, these people will esteem you and your achievements much more often in return! And hearing compliments helps to boost your self-confidence. 

If you feel too shy and alienated, remember the power of kind words and the fact that giving a compliment strengthens social bonds around you, ensures mutual sympathy, and helps you feel more connected. Finally, giving a compliment simply makes us happier!

the power of a compliment is to make people happier
Party photo created by cookie_studio –

How to Respond to a Compliment

What to say when someone compliments you? You might feel awkward because you believe that you have to return the favor immediately. You utter in panic: “Oh, you have a nice jacket as well,” only to realize that this person is wearing no jacket. 

First and foremost—don’t feel pressured to respond to a compliment. Yes, it is a reciprocal action, but smiling back and thanking that person is more than enough. You might start a conversation instead of searching for a labored compliment. The person who shows their appreciation for you doesn’t do it for feedback but because of kindness and the ability to spot ingenuity. 

Your low self-esteem or humility can cause this fear of compliments as well. Because of this, accepting compliments makes you feel as if you’re boasting and think that people around you are lying. It might be your individual trait, or it can be that in your cultural environment, it is not common to compliment other people or always have kind words to say about someone. If you realize that this is the root of the trouble, try to notice and overcome this type of negative thinking. It takes time to get used to acknowledging that you’re actually pretty good in some aspects and that people around are genuinely proud of you. 

Learning how to accept compliments can help you boost your self-esteem and value your qualities more. One study has revealed that taking compliments as something meaningful (and not as someone’s silly chatter) can build your way to high self-esteem and security. You will also feel more attractive

Do you want to witness how giving compliments works? SoulPancake staged one of the experiments when people internalize the compliments they hear. The experiment in the video proves again and again that taking compliments meaningfully increases your self-confidence. Although here the participants are couples, compliments work equally well for other kinds of relationships!

Be Cautious with Compliments!

After learning how powerful compliments are, you might get inspired to give them all the time to all the people around you. But beware—don’t overdo it! First of all, compliments are all about being sincere. Moreover, if you are continually pouring out flattering remarks, sooner or later, people will start taking them for granted. So be careful when choosing ways to compliment someone.

Compliments are also not appropriate for all social situations, especially when saying something to perfect strangers, so remain conscious and aware. Be ready that if you randomly compliment a person on the street (no matter how sincere you are), you might get negative feedback. For example, some cultures might not be accustomed to complimenting, especially when addressing people you barely know. 

On the other hand, certain social situations (your group at college, a conference, a family gathering, or a party) might be a safer place to train your mind to spot good things about people and try to give someone a compliment.

It’s also crucial to remind yourself that giving more compliments does not mean forgetting constructive criticism and open dialogue.

On a final note, a compliment counts only when it comes from your heart. Don’t try to google “101 best compliments” or a “compliment generator” to bombard your friends and colleagues with them. Train yourself to notice people around you and awesome things about them. Maybe, they’ve done something better today than yesterday—so let them know you’ve noticed and you care. 

You’re a dedicated, conscious reader if you’ve reached this point! Happy National Compliment Day! Spread love and care around you!

Iliana K