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Paying and receiving compliments

How to Give a Compliment

  • Giving a compliment is much easier than receiving one. A good rule is to simply tell another person whenever something complimentary about that person pops into your head. 
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  • But there are also compliments that express something you’ve always thought about a person but have never put into words for some reason. (Sometimes we think the other person just knows how we feel or what we think, but of course putting it into words is the important thing.)

• The first rule about giving a compliment is that whatever you say should be honest and sincere.

• A woman-to-woman compliment is much simpler than when a woman compliments a man or vice versa. Most women are thrilled with a compliment from another woman, even if it’s someone they don’t know. 

  • Women who know each other, of course, can be more personal than if both are strangers. But when a woman compliments a man, it can be perceived as flirting. If a woman doesn’t want this to happen, she should take care to be impersonal, as in “That’s a beautiful shirt,” rather than “That shirt makes you look so handsome!” The situation is even trickier when a man compliments a woman. In our litigious society, I know more than a few men who worry about saying a woman looks attractive for fear of being accused of sexual harassment. 
  • So in this case, the words should be thoughtfully chosen. Even “Nice blouse!” can be taken to refer to what’s under the blouse instead of the blouse itself. In fact, it may be better for men not to compliment women at all unless they are close friends, and even then to make it clear that the remark is not a sexual advance. This is especially true when the man is more powerful than the woman, as in the case of an executive and his administrative assistant.

• How you give a compliment is almost as important as what you say. Eye contact is key when giving a compliment. Without eye contact, you might as well pay the compliment via Facebook. It’s all about face-to-face contact. Looking the other person in the eyes will speak volumes about your sincerity.

Receiving a Compliment

Receiving a compliment is difficult for many. Often our first reaction is to try and deflect attention by demurring or putting ourselves down. But this is not a graceful response, as it can make the compliment-giver feel unappreciated or even dismissed.

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• You need only two words: thank you, with a smile, of course. But you could also follow it up with a small phrase such as, How nice of you, or What a nice thing to say. That in turn will make the compliment-giver pleased.

• As when giving a compliment, make sure you look the compliment-giver in the eyes when you thank him or her. No blushing or turning aside; eye contact means your thank-you is genuine.

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One of my favorite quotes, from Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love, addresses the issue of how to appreciate ourselves and others: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous. Actually, who are you not to be? . . . We are all meant to shine, as children do. . . . And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

  • Appreciating ourselves enough to accept compliments gracefully is the other side of appreciating others enough to compliment them. Give someone a sincere compliment today, and the next time you are complimented, accept it with grace and pleasure.
  1. Understand what deflecting a compliment is really about. If you’re uncomfortable receiving compliments, it’s likely that you discount compliments and thereby stop the compliments from being made by that person again. 
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  1. The ways of discounting a compliment include: suggesting that it was nothing or that someone else could have done it better, thinking that the person paying you a compliment must be after something from you, being embarrassed and blushing or giving a compliment in return, being sarcastic or insisting that the he or she doesn’t mean it. 
  2. Each of these ways of deflecting a compliment results in putting down both yourself and the giver of the compliment, so they’re not actually very giving or kind responses. If you have these problems in relation to accepting compliments, try to see the motivation for discounting compliments in a different light:
  • Modesty: If you think that you’re being modest by deflecting a compliment, think again. Modesty is a virtue, provided it isn’t taken to an extreme; like any other trait, it has to exist in moderation. Modesty becomes a noose around your neck when it cripples your style and causes you to overlook what you’re good at and the skills that define you. 
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    • If you feel you need to compare yourself to someone who is always going to be “better” than you, then it’s time to stop the comparisons, lower the bar of modesty and start respecting the good things about yourself a whole lot more.
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    • Distrust: If you discount a compliment because you lack trust in the motivations of the giver, then you’re being aggressive or hostile. You’re immediately assuming that this person is being sycophantic and is weaseling their way into your good books just for their own purposes. 
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  • While there is a possibility from time to time that an occasional person might be telling a white lie, most people are genuine about giving compliments and deciding on whether or not someone is trustworthy on the basis of compliments is a daft approach to life.
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    • Trying to match the compliment: If you feel obliged to give a compliment in return for a compliment, it’s likely that you’re a people pleaser and that you’re trying to self-efface by batting back the compliment. If you think “I can’t keep this compliment, they deserve it more than me!” and immediately scramble to bat it back to them, then it’s possible you’re denying the beauty of the compliment you earned based on your own behavior and way of being.
  1. Think about taking a compliment as an exercise in being assertive. An assertive person knows their self worth and appreciates acknowledgement, but neither seeks it out nor rebuffs it when received. More importantly, an assertive response is a recognition that you are worth the compliment and that you are entitled to quell any negative voice that seeks to deflect the compliment.
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  1. See accepting a compliment as a compliment in itself. In accepting a compliment, you are telling the other person that you trust their judgment, their wisdom and their sense of self. Accepting compliments also tells the other person that you appreciate what they have to say about you. More than anything, focus on receiving the compliment rather than on its content. This helps you to acknowledge the compliment and express appreciation for it being given to you. Most importantly, since giving a compliment is a form of uttering an opinion, stop yourself from disagreeing with it or you risk downplaying someone else’s opinion.
  1. Decide how you’d like to take the compliment. While it’s clear that you can deflect or discount a compliment in various ways, you can also respond to a compliment positively in a number of ways.
  •  It really depends upon the context that you’re in and how you’re perceiving the compliment. In particular, you can choose an appropriate response to a compliment depending on whether you’d like to accept the compliment itself at face value, even if you don’t agree with it, or if you’d like to accept the compliment’s substance and reflect that in your response, perhaps even using it to engage on further conversation.
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  • When accepting the compliment as it is, even if it’s not something you agree with, keep the reply simple and stay focused on the fact of receiving the compliment and be appreciative that the person was happy to compliment you. Some examples are:
  • “Thank you very much” or just “thank you”. These are simple, timeless classics that should be easy enough to utter even if the compliment has caught you off guard. If that’s all you can think to say, leave it at that.
  • “Thanks, I appreciate that.”
  • “Thank you; that’s a really lovely thing to say.”
  • “Thanks – that makes me feel really good.”
  • “Thanks. That means a lot to me.”
  • “Thanks, you’re a kind person.”
  • When accepting a compliment in a way that shows that you’re appreciative of the substance of the compliment, this can really help to make the person giving the compliment feel that they’ve hit the right spot. Some examples are:
    • “Thanks. I’m really glad you noticed that because it’s something I’m proud of too.”
    • “Thanks! I’m so enthusiastic about this project, so it’s great to know you’re keen too.”
    • “Thanks. I like it too – that’s why I bought it even though I had to save up for ages.”
    • “Thanks. I had fun making it and it’s great to know you like it.”
    • “Thanks. It has been in my family for generations.”
    • “Thank you! I tried really hard.” This is a really good response when somebody has praised your effort, as there is never any harm in acknowledging effort and that the outcome wasn’t simply a fluke.
  • It’s often good to use the compliment to further conversation. Say something like: “Thanks! I found it in New Look – it’s amazing what you can get there.” That way you’ve accepted the compliment and moved on to something about which you can both talk.

5. Smile. When taking a compliment, smiling says a lot without requiring you to sayanything. You’ve probably earned it, so enjoy your moment in the spotlight. Also, pay attention while you’re being complimented. If you give a person a half-hearted reply such as “Whatever” or “Mhm,” don’t expect that person to be quick to compliment you again. An expressive “thank you” is much better than a dreary “Uh-huh”.

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6.If you suspect that the sincerity of the compliment is questionable or the compliment is confusing, you might want to open up an opportunity to explore it. This step is absolutely optional because on the whole, this approach is not recommended for the very reason that there is more to be gained from letting insincere compliments float off you unacknowledged than there is by tackling them. Be totally aware that it would be really unfortunate if you have misjudged the compliment and see insincerity where there is none – that could really offend the other person. However, if you feel that you really need to question the compliment, you might approach it like this:

  • “It just strikes me that you didn’t make a sincere compliment then. Are you being open/frank with me when you say that you like what I am wearing/doing/writing/creating, etc? I’d rather know that you’re not happy about something I’ve done/said than to dance around the edges. At least if I know, I can strive to make changes.”

7. Return a compliment later. Remember when a person has complimented you and note that it’s nice and courteous to return it in a short space of time. 

  • Some people like to compliment straight away, but as discussed above, you do need to be very careful that you’re doing this for genuine reasons and not simply as a way of discounting the original compliment made to you. 
  • If you’re not sure, then don’t give a compliment at the time you’re given one, but do remember to return a compliment at another opportune moment. In fact, just get into the habit of making regular compliments through seeing the good in others and expressing this openly, as a part of who you are.
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  • Simply say something nice about the person who gave you a compliment. A great way to return the favor is to compliment on something of theirs and smile. Be sure to notice the efforts they put into things; everyone loves having their efforts acknowledged.
  • If you haven’t anything nice to say though, say nothing at all. Keeping your mouth shut is better than conjuring up false reasons to compliment another person.

8.Give credit where credit is due. Share the compliment with the whole group of friends, family or coworkers. If you couldn’t have done something you’ve been complimented for without them, say so. This is especially important if the person giving the compliment was responsible for your success.

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top 7 reasons to make a compliment to someone every day

It takes the focus off of you.

Any time you can break the habit of “stinkin’ thinkin’” even just for a second, you’re shifting your attention from all the things going wrong in your day and putting it on helping make someone else’s day a little sunnier. Before long, your compliment to a complete stranger could go viral, and strangers everywhere will be smiling at each other, telling the person they just passed on the street something they like about them. Yes, this is indeed a game changer for everyone.

Smiling burns calories.

 And smiling often leads to laughing, and laughing burns even more calories.

 Compliments spark creativity.

  • Finding something positive to say to someone at least once a day has to the power to remove, say, that person’s mental block around a big project they’ve been struggling with and clear the pathways for them to get to the solution. 
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  • While something this drastic might not happen to each person who receives a compliment from you, you will undoubtedly create a space for them to think differently from that moment on. Small acts of kindness go a long way these days.

Kindness doesn’t actually kill.

We’ve all heard the phrase “kill them with kindness.” Well, if the fear of killing someone with kindness has prevented you from complimenting a person, I hereby release you from said fear.Kindness could quite possibly kill a bad mood or a bad memory, but it WILL NOT kill you or the person on the other end of the kindness. Don’t believe me? Try it! Be nice to someone right now and see what happens.

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Sincere compliments build trust.

 Each one of us walking this planet has the desire to be acknowledged. When someone else notices even the slightest thing about another person, it can shout to that person, “Hey!  Someone noticed me!!” Your daily compliments to “the shy one” at work whose name no one knows can help her break out of her shyness and, who knows? turn her into the best friend you’ve ever had. We all need someone in our lives we can trust, and the more we build up others the more we’re also building up ourselves.

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What goes around comes around.

When you give a compliment, you’re more than likely going to get one in return. And like we just saw in Reason #3, when someone notices you, you’ll feel special even if it’s just for a moment. That moment could be enough to carry you the rest of the day and keep you happy and productive. Your boss might notice the change in your attitude and give you the raise that’s been coming to you for the last two years. You’ll be happier, your co-workers will be happier and pretty soon the whole office building is happy. And yet again we have things going and coming around.And the number 1 reason to make a compliment to someone every day (drum roll please),Compliments are F.R.E.E.!

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