Too Seldom Is Heard an Encouraging Word: Why and How to Offer More Compliments

by Brett & Kate McKay on December 13, 2012 · 50 comments

in Dating, Fatherhood, Friendship, Marriage, Relationships & Family

“Idle words are characterless and die upon utterance. Evil words rankle for a while, make contentions, and then die. But the hopeful, kind, cheering word sinks into a man’s heart and goes on bearing fruit forever. How many beautiful written words—words in book and song and story—are still inspiring men and making the world fragrant with their beauty! It is just so with the words you write, not on paper, but on the hearts of men. I wish there were room to mention here the testimonies of great men to the power of some hopeful, encouraging word they had spoken to them in youth and in the days of struggle. But every autobiography records this thing. Booker T. Washington tells how the encouragement of General Armstrong saved the future for him. I know a young man who is to-day filling a large and useful place in the world, who was kept to his high purpose in a time of discouragement by just an encouraging word from a man he greatly admired. That man’s word will live and grow in the increasing influence of the younger man. This world is full of men bearing in their minds deathless words of inspiration heard in youth from lips now still forever. Speak hopeful words every chance you get. Always send your young friends from you bearing a word that they will take into the years and fulfill for you.” — The Enlargement of Life (1903) By Frederick Henry Lynch

As I detailed in this seminal post about the importance of hustling, when I started playing football in high school I was slow and fat and generally terrible. But I worked as hard as I could for three years and eventually became a starter my senior year. At the end of my last season, one of the coaches pulled me aside in the hallway, put his hands on my shoulders and said, “McKay, there are plenty of other guys on the team that have way more natural athletic ability than you. You’re not a naturally athletic guy, but what you lacked in talent, you made up for with hustle and heart.”

That conversation impacted the rest of my life. It crystallized something I had hoped was true into something I began to really believe about my character. Since then, when I’ve faced challenges where I don’t feel as up to the task as others, I can hear my coach telling me that I have heart, and it helps me to push on.

Such is the power of compliments.

Unfortunately, even though compliments are a powerful force for positive good for both the giver and receiver, most people are pretty stingy with them. Let’s change that and start lifting each other up more often with encouraging words. Here’s why you should offer more compliments, and how to do it.

Why We Should Compliment More

Compliments encourage others who are struggling. Studies have shown that when it comes to helping someone reach their goal, positive feedback is most effective for novices. Experts are primarily concerned about evaluating their rate of progress, and negative feedback helps motivate them to want to go further and faster. Beginners, on the other hand, are most concerned with simply evaluating their commitment (can I do this?) and they interpret compliments as signs that they’re on the right track and will be able to stick with it.

A compliment can truly be all that stands between someone being successful and giving up. Stand in that gap and offer an encouraging word.

Compliments help children learn new tasks. Given the point above, this makes sense; after all, kids are novices at everything. Researchers argue that positive feedback is also more effective than the negative variety in teaching kids new tasks and behaviors, because it’s simpler than negative feedback; the latter involves the more complex task of learning from mistakes.

For this reason, “Catch ‘em doing something good” is one of my parenting mottos.

Compliments strengthen (and soften) relationships. Compliments convey respect. Relationships are built on respect. Simple.

Compliments can also serve to melt the ice between you and an antagonist. As we’ll discuss below, offering a compliment requires a bit of humility, and it also tells the receiver that even if you don’t like anything else about them, you can at least admit to admiring that one quality. That tiny opening can often thaw the freeze into, if not bosom-buddy-hood, then at least a working relationship.

Compliments charm others and increase our circle of influence. People like surrounding themselves with those who make them feel good, and nothing makes a person feel better about themselves than a thoughtful compliment. If you want to make new friends or increase your influence among co-workers and colleagues, make an effort to “catch them doing something good” (it works for everybody!) and then complimenting them on it.

Compliments help you be less cynical. In the wise words of William George Jordan, “We pay too much tribute to a few human insects when we let their wrong-doing paralyze our faith in humanity. It is a lie of the cynics that says ‘all men are ungrateful,’ a companion lie to ‘all men have their price.’ We must trust humanity if we would get good from humanity. He who thinks all mankind is vile is a pessimist who mistakes his introspection for observation; he looks into his own heart and thinks he sees the world.”

For reasons we’ll discuss in just a moment, humans have a tendency to concentrate on the negative. When you start looking for reasons to offer compliments, you increase the sensitivity of your antennae for picking up on good stuff – the positive, admirable things that people do every day. Don’t look now stony heart, a tear was just squeezed from you.

Reasons You Don’t Compliment More Often

Our brains are designed to focus on the negative. The human mind is designed with a negativity bias — we pay more attention and give more weight to negative experiences as opposed to positive ones. There’s a perfectly good evolutionary reason for this. An increased sensitivity to negative experiences kept our caveman ancestors safe from life-threatening risks. “Okay, so sabertooth tigers don’t think it’s funny when you pull their tails.”

Unfortunately, the very bias that helps keep us safe from risks, often prevents us from noticing the good and praiseworthy things that folks around us do. We’ll notice and say something when our waiter messes up our order, but when he provides impeccable service, it hardly registers, and if it does, we rarely mention it to him.

The first step to becoming a better complimenter is to simply be aware of your negativity bias. Understand that your brain is always hunting for something to gripe about, so make a conscious effort to overcome that bias by searching for the good – it’s often right in front of your nose.

You’re self-absorbed. No matter how selfless we may think we are, all of us are self-centered to varying degrees. We’re typically more concerned about our own performance or behavior, and not the performance or behavior of others. Our natural egotism explains why we think everyone notices how nervous we’re feeling when giving a big speech. Because we’re paying so much attention to how we’re feeling, we assume others are too. They’re not – they’re as caught up in their own thoughts and behavior as you are in yours!

Our natural self-centeredness can cause us to not truly pay attention and listen to others – which makes us miss opportunities to offer a compliment. Don’t get so wrapped up in yourself that you overlook the good things others around you are doing.

You see everything as a competition. Complimenting is a way to show your respect or admiration for someone. For many men, offering a compliment seems like an admission that they’re inferior and the person receiving the compliment is better. These folks see everything in life as a competition and don’t want to give someone any more “points” with a compliment.

However, if someone happens to excel you in some aspect of life, withholding your compliment isn’t going to even the score. In fact, the other person probably doesn’t even know there is a score. Success isn’t a zero-sum game. There’s plenty of it to go around — so quit the petty scorekeeping.

In truth, it’s the superior man who is able to respect other men for their excellence, and who seeks to identify and articulate areas where he’d like to improve. Observing and taking notes on the things that others are doing that you want to do too, is an excellent way of facilitating this improvement. And offering the adroit man a compliment can lead to the very best way to improve – finding a mentor. “I really enjoyed your presentation today. How did you get so comfortable with public speaking?”

You’re shy. If saying a simple “hello” to someone gives you a shiver of anxiety, offering a compliment likely induces a full-on panic attack. Okay, maybe not a panic attack, but some awfully sweaty palms. If shyness is a problem for you, compliments are a low-risk, high-return way to overcome your social anxiety. Most people love to hear how awesome they are and will almost never respond with a cold shoulder to a simple and sincere compliment. It is also a great way to kick-off small talk, if that’s something that troubles you. “This table you made is amazing. How did you get into woodworking?”

You don’t want to appear like a brown-noser/kiss-ass/suck-up. Nobody wants to be  a suck-up. But don’t withhold compliments because of your fear of being labeled as one. To avoid the brown-noser label, you simply need to follow a few guidelines when offering compliments to folks, especially your superiors. First, be sincere (more on that later). Second, be judicious with your compliments. Don’t go overboard with showering praise on your boss/teacher. Third, offer the compliments or praise when others aren’t around. If sociological studies are correct, your boss probably enjoys hearing your effusive praise and compliments; it’s your colleagues who likely disdain it – as they perceive it as an attempt to elevate your status and diminish theirs. Compliment your superiors in private.

You assume they already know. Another reason we sometimes hold back with the compliments is that we figure people already know what we think about them, or that they’ve probably been complimented on that quality before. Well, if they have, once more won’t hurt. But more likely than not, your compliment will be greeted with, “Really? No one’s ever told me that before.” Remember, most people are pretty stingy with the compliments, so yours have a high likelihood of coming as a most welcome and heartening surprise.

Also, even if they do know what you think of them, putting those thoughts into words is a very powerful thing. It makes something nebulous become concrete and real.

You don’t know what to say. If you avoid giving compliments because you simply don’t know what to say, then you’re in luck! We’re going to tell you exactly how to give an effective compliment in the next section. No more using that excuse!

How to Give a Compliment

Start paying attention. The first step of becoming a master complimenter is recognizing opportunities to offer praise. To overcome our negative and egocentric biases, we need to harness our inner Sherlock Holmes by observing more frequently and more keenly. Be fully present when interacting with others and you’ll easily find lots of things to compliment them on.

Compliment the small stuff. You don’t need to wait around for some big accomplishment to offer a compliment to somebody. If it’s something really obvious, they’ve probably been complimented on it plenty of times before. So offer your admiration for the small stuff. What may seem trivial to you might mean a lot to somebody else. Like somebody’s jacket? Let them know! Impressed with someone’s handwriting? Tell them.

While small things make excellent fodder for compliments, make sure they’re connected to a worthwhile trait or talent. Complimenting someone’s jacket makes them feel good, because it says they have good taste. Taking note of someone’s handwriting is really complimenting them on their discipline and practice. For this reason, “I like the way you eat peas,” or, “You pet your cat real nice,” will win you puzzled looks rather than smiles.

Be specific. The more specific you can get the better. Specificity conveys sincerity. When you’re specific with your compliment, it shows that you’re really paying attention to the person.

Moreover, if your goal is to encourage positive change in an individual, the more specific you get with your compliment, the more likely the recipient will be to continue the positive behavior. Specificity helps them identify what they’re doing right. For this reason, children who grew up with parents who gave them a lot of general praise, “You’re so smart!” or, “You’re so special!” tend to feel lost in adulthood, as they haven’t learned to hone in on their talents and abilities.

Be sincere. Compliments that are clearly insincere won’t win you any points; in fact, they’ll have the opposite effect. If a person knows you’re lying, that will erode their trust in you and de-value your future compliments.

You may compliment someone because you’re trying to win them over or sell them something, but if those are the only reasons you’re giving the compliment, the person will see right through you, and be repulsed rather than charmed. That might be part of your motivation, but you have to really, truly admire the thing you call out for praise for it to come off sincerely.

An emphasis on sincerity will also prevent you from offering compliments too often – another practice that makes your praise seem phony.

Finally, compliments that aren’t connected to true merit breed “learned helplessness” and passivity. When someone is rewarded and praised no matter what he does, he comes to see that positive attention is outside of his control and not contingent on good behavior or success. This saps his motivation to try and to challenge himself. This is especially important to keep in mind when you’re complimenting your kids.

Avoid the backhanded compliment. The backhanded compliment isn’t even a compliment, but rather an insult disguised as one. It can be a tool of the passive aggressive person to express disdain without completely owning up to it. We’ve all been subject to backhanded compliments one time or another.

  • “Your painting is surprisingly good.”
  • “You’re smarter than you look.”
  • “I’m really impressed you’ve held a job for more than 6 months.”
  • “You look pretty good considering your age.”

The best way to avoid backhanded compliments is to resist the urge to add any modifiers to the original compliment. If someone did a good job during a speech, just say, “Great job on that speech!” and nothing more. If the person is not deserving of the praise, then simply say nothing at all.

Explain how the person’s great qualities affect you. If you’re having trouble coming up with something to say when complimenting somebody, simply share how that person’s great qualities make a difference, however small, in your life – combine a compliment with appreciation. “Your smile really brightens up my day!” “Your attention to detail really makes my job a whole lot easier. Thanks!” And so on.

Vocalize your thoughts. I think part of the reason we’re often stingy with the compliments is not that we don’t think nice thoughts or notice things we admire in others, but that we don’t make the leap to putting those thoughts into words. We let the thought slip away unspoken. This often happens in long-term relationships – you get so comfortable you stop vocalizing your affections. If your lady gets all gussied up for a night out, let her know how nice she looks, instead of making her ask, “Well, how do I look?”

Compliment someone in front of others. A public compliment has extra weight because it shows the recipient that you’re proud to be associated with them and you’re not afraid to reveal your admiration to others.

Relay “second-hand compliments.” One of my favorite types of compliments to receive are what I call “second-hand compliments.” These are compliments that happen outside of the praised person’s earshot, but that you relay back to them later. For example, “Hey James, I was talking to Andy the other day about your new partnership and he went on and on about how he’s never enjoyed working with someone as much as he does with you, and how much he appreciates the new ideas you’re bringing to the project.”

Non-present compliments are also those you yourself offer about someone else when they’re not around. For example, I was recently talking to my brother about running and working on the blog and I mentioned how I really admire Kate’s tenacity and grit to finish an article on a tight deadline, even if it means staying up all night to do it. When I got home, I told her about that conversation, and she said it really meant a lot.

Second-hand compliments are extra special because they tell the receiver that you think so highly of their worthy quality that you were even talking to other people about it.

Don’t delay! If you notice something to compliment someone about, do it as soon as you can. If you wait too long, you’ll likely forget. Happens to me all the time. For example, last Sunday at church, a young man gave a really impressive talk. He was articulate, engaging, and insightful. I thought to myself, “I need to tell that kid I enjoyed his talk,” but when the meeting was over, I got busy conversing with someone else, and I didn’t get a chance to offer my compliment.

The Compliment Challenge

For the next week, challenge yourself to compliment five different people every day:

  • A loved one or friend. Compliments are an easy way to strengthen the bonds between you and your loved ones.
  • A co-worker. Be a morale booster at your office by seeking opportunities to compliment your fellow employees.
  • A business you frequent. Most businesses just hear complaints all day. Very few people take the time to compliment them on good service or creating a quality product.
  • A young person. Young people need nurturing and one of the best ways to do that is through a thoughtful compliment from an older person. You have no idea how much it will mean to that kid.
  • A stranger. Make a random stranger’s day by offering a sincere compliment. It doesn’t have to be anything big. A simple, “I like your hat,” will do.

Of course, the other half of compliments is knowing how to receive them. We’ll talk about that sometime too.

Until then, work on becoming a man who’s got a warm heart and never hesitates to offer an encouraging word to everyone he meets.

 

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Harrison December 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I have only just begin to stumble into this website, but I must say I really enjoy everything I have read so far! You guys are fantastic, keep up the good work and push for true ‘manliness’!

2 David Wainwright December 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Great article! Thanks for posting, definitely something I (and all of us) can and should be improving on.

3 James December 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I always look up to anyone who is accomplishing great things. An old friend Brian started his own business and is successful. My other friend seems jealous and said “He’s just lucky,the business will go down the tubes soon.” My point is my friend sees him as competition. For me I am happy for his business succeeding because he inspires me, and if I see him I will compliment him on it. Some people want to see others fail because they are not accomplishing their own goals.

4 James Armstrong December 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm

In high school, I had a girl tell me that she really liked the shape of my eyebrows. Totally weird and completely out of the blue, but I remember it to this day, and have been quite fond of my eyebrows since.

5 jack December 13, 2012 at 4:51 pm

This is a really important topic. My Dad used to say that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I’m frequently surprised with the reactions of people to whom I give compliments and how much in can improve social interaction. A kind word goes a long way in the world we live in.

6 Trevor December 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm

The complement a stranger part at the end made me laugh… I’ve been getting random “I like your hat” and “I like your moustache” comments from strangers a lot lately. I guess it’s hard not to notice the guy in a bowler hat with a handlebar moustache.

7 Tony A December 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm

As a firefighter one of the greatest things we can hang our hat on after a tough fire or incident is a pat on the back and a simple “nice job.” Small statement with a bold meaning especially when it comes from an older, more senior firemen. As always a great read from AoM. Happy Holidays Men!

8 olan Wheeler December 13, 2012 at 6:52 pm

That’s right, and if no one is cool enough to praise you with a compliment once in a while… compliment yourself.
You deserve it!

9 Stengel99 December 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Great work on this article. I especially liked the part about how compliments increase our circle of influence. When I’ve had trouble connecting with someone, I often find that they’ll stop and listen when you compliment them specifically and sincerely. Few people are too busy to listen to you finish your thoughts as you say nice words about them.

10 Joe December 13, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I agree with your assessment of the reasons why many people are stingy with giving compliments. For many, the impeccable service or the job well done are normal expectations that don’t deserve to be complimented.

It’s sad really, because eventually a person who receives few compliments starts to wonder why he should bother putting out the extra effort.

11 smitty December 13, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Great article! I have been really enjoying the articles (both topic and quality) on this website. A book I am reading right now also has helpful info about the aspects of positive interaction with others; “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie

12 Ashante December 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Loved this article! Tons of useful tips as well! I have a social disorder something along the lines of mild Antisocial Disorder and I often want to improve my interactions with others. Please continue to post things such as this so I can better myself as a human being!

13 Nusy December 13, 2012 at 10:31 pm

It truly is a lost art… I have been trying to offer more compliments to people around me; both for altruistic and “selfish” reasons. Selfish, that is, both because I am running for office in my pre-professional association at my college, and because in legal community as small as ours in the Fresno, CA area, a good professional network is indispensable.

I really liked the part about complimenting your kids… I grew up in a different country, and my parents were skimpy on praises at best. Not only on the small things; not even on the big ones (admission to strong, competitive schools, graduating, etc.). Even if I did get a compliment, it was a generalism, like “Look what a smart/obedient kid you are!” Took me two tries at college and three at a no-college career until I found out what I want to do that I am good at…

14 Darnai Kiefer Su December 13, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Too right! I work in Security, and I had a similar experience in my first year as a Bouncer. I was a scrawny and timid guy, and i relied on being polite to win a fight (which it has, on occasion). But eventually, after a lot of work and practice, i became regarded as one of the more ‘efficient’ security guards around. Especially after getting into a fight, saving a guy, getting into another fight, and then resuming to save the guy. I won’t ever forget the day when I heard my head of security tell me “You’re one of the best security guys we’ve got.” It made my week. This was a very very good article!

15 Gareth December 14, 2012 at 2:57 am

Thanks for the great article. There are many people around that are incredibly stingy with compliments. How true it is what you said about the superior man being able to respect others for their excellence.

16 ope December 14, 2012 at 4:50 am

This is to say THANK YOU!! For all the great posts. Your posts are always a boost when I need it. So many times you guys just write my thoughts in words. Thanks. Merry Christmas in advance. God bless you

17 Rich December 14, 2012 at 8:18 am

The Dalai Lama said that most people treat others better than they treat themselves because of a self-loathing the mind buys into. It makes you remember all of the things you have done wrong so it has control.

As you do to others, give yourself the benefit of the dought and realize that if you had all the love you need you will give it more readily. Everyone has their own battles as you do.

18 john December 14, 2012 at 9:11 am

Olan, I think you’re missing the point.

19 Eric Petersen December 14, 2012 at 10:25 am

Thanks again for another great article. I have been looking for something for sometime to help me remember that compliments are key. I tend to give them quite freqneutly but I feel I have been doing so less and less and this has encouraged me to go further once again.

By the way, my roommate has started reading your articles after I showed him a dating one. He loves the blog! It is so helpful and humorous at the same time. He enjoys it and I certainly enjoy it. Please continue to be awesome!

20 MJ December 14, 2012 at 11:25 am

As a father, I feel it is very important to give positive feedback, praise and compliments to my children. I grew up with a rather abusive father, and was constantly told how I was messing up. A father’s words have a huge impact on his children.

21 Peter L. December 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I think it’s very important that you mentioned sincerity and learned helplessness. Compliments are great, but they need to be earned.

One of my earliest learning experiences was that praise compliments from my 1st grade teachers and coaches meant nothing, because they were given to everyone for everything, including failure. School and sport was a constant barrage of support that quickly became meaningless noise. It became hard to tell if “good job” meant you had succeeded or failed.

My father, conversely, was very sparse with his praise, but it meant a great deal when given. A single compliment from him meant I had truly done something well.

22 Mato Tope December 14, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Hi Brett and Kate,
As part of my quest to become the best man I can possibly be I recently joined my local speakers association. It is so challenging to be given a random topic and immediately have to do a two minute talk about it! We also have to give pre-prepared presentations and in the New Year our assignment is a four minute talk on any subject beginning; “My best ever…”
And seeing as this post relates to compliments I thought you should know; “My best ever discovery on the internet is… the Art of Manliness.” (And I mean that most sincerely)
Great work both of you.

23 Brucifer December 14, 2012 at 5:08 pm

“Many men know how to flatter, few men know how to praise.”
- Greek proverb

24 William Haas December 14, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Brett & Kate – great job…again. I really enjoy the articles and I find the website inspiring in many ways. I wish the site was around when I was in high school and college. This type of advice is so hard to come by these days. You’re doing great – thanks and keep it up. If you get to a point wondering if the work you put into the site is worth it or not – rest assured, it is!

25 Quigath December 14, 2012 at 7:06 pm

As a parent of small children, is there a limit on compliments? I don’t want my kids growing up with inflated egos and always needing compliments before being motivated to do anything productive.

26 Tobi December 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I read an eye-opening article in New York Magazine a few months ago about the best and worst ways to compliment or praise children. It seems that telling someone (especially children) that they are good at something through inherent talent tends to produce people who lack self-confidence in their abilities; if a kid is always told that he is smart, the first time that he encounters a problem that he cannot immediately solve, he begins to doubt his own smartness. They also tend to lower the bar of success for themselves and choose easier problems over harder ones–again, looking smart is good, and trying too hard proves that they aren’t naturally intelligent. On the other hand, children who are complimented on their effort tend to be more self-assured in their abilities; if they can’t solve a problem, it isn’t because they lack the knack, it’s only because they haven’t applied themselves hard enough yet. They raise the bar for themselves, try harder, and don’t collapse even when the problem is insurmountable.

I’ve included a link to the article, if anyone wants to read it. I’ve tried to internalize this knowledge in how I compliment others and how I compliment myself. Focus on effort, heart, guts; natural talent means very little without real follow-through.

http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/

27 Garrett December 15, 2012 at 1:00 pm

@Brett- I can honestly say that all of these recent articles have helped me shape into a better person and I thank you for it.

28 David December 15, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I must say your website continues to inspire and really help me in becoming a better man. I would also add that we all need to find a better way to think of complimenting things to say inside our own heads about ourselves. I know I can be really negative.

29 Saeed Khan December 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Excellent advice as usual.
Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing such such wonderful insights.

30 KT December 15, 2012 at 9:55 pm

I found this article extremely appropriate for this time of year. I work with many type “A” personallities. Most of them male. It is difficult to circumnavigate all the testosterone and egos on a daily basis to put forth some positive reinforcement. It shouldn’t be that way durring the holidays, but it is. In a stressfull environment, such as my job, a complement spoken at the right time WILL make or break someone. It will also remove tension durring a poorly timed, very heated argument.

Great post and thanks!!

31 Orrin December 16, 2012 at 7:51 am

A genuine compliment also makes for a great conversation starter.

People are used to generic compliments but if you can show them you’ve actually taken active notice of them, you’ll shine.

32 Luke|and|etc. December 16, 2012 at 8:11 am

Really loved this article—particularly the focus on the life-giving quality of compliments. At work, I was genuinely impressed with the work of a coworker (a coworker who is particularly hard to work with)—I got to compliment their work and it, at least, helped me fight of resentment/bitterness that this person’s actions usually engender.

I’m very interested in a follow-up article on receiving compliments! Seems a repetitive thing that compliments become complicated by either fear of being prideful or a distrust… or just plain awkwardness.

Bret, you should totally go back to that guy you forgot to compliment and tell him you forgot to compliment him—the delay, I think, would only enhance the compliment because it was remembered even with a delay—plus, how many guys get complimented by the author of The Art of Manliness?

33 Luke|and|etc. December 16, 2012 at 8:28 am

PS: Also enjoyed that you pointed out how we are so addicted to our maintaining our own status/self-worth (which reveals how insecure we actually are) that we find it too brutal a thing to give a “competitor” a compliment. Rather, we’d just silently envy and steep in despising the other guy.

34 Todd December 17, 2012 at 9:14 am

You know, Brett, my first reaction to seeing this article was IRONICALLY to give you a compliment!

I mean by this that a long time back I learned the value of this—and that too few people do this—I think it was Life’s Little Instruction Book (a small best-seller just before your time) that mentioned this. You might want to dig up a copy of this; for it really has been a neat little aid to me.

35 Nichole December 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Great article, lots of amazing information. I sent this to a close friend who grew up in a critical home and thus learned and believes that compliments should be “earned” through feats of amazing-ness and that constant critiques are how you show love.

One small note: if a significant other said “I like the way you eat peas” to me, he would immediately be pulled into the bedroom for sexy-smooshy-time. I think there are looser rules for complimenting your lover vs the general public. Knowing my partner loves the way I do something obscure and silly enhances my confidence and my feelings of intimacy with him. Just wanted to point that out, I’d hate my boyfriend to feel like every compliment to me had to be logical and specific.

Love the site, I forward your articles around all the time!

36 Travon December 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm

I believe the reason that our brains are wired to more negative experiences is because we expect positive things to happens so we don’t react to them as quickly because to us it seems like everything is going smoothly, but when something negative happens it triggers an imbalance and we don’t like it so we react negatively towards it. Just my opinion

37 Capa December 28, 2012 at 2:55 am

I once told a stranger that I thought she was pretty. She was in one of my classes, and she mostly kept to herself. It took me a long time to do this, since it’s not the sort of thing people typically do.

She seemed confused at first, but after I said my piece, she gave me the most genuine smile I’ve ever seen. If you’ve ever wanted compliment a stranger, it can be rather awkward, but you definitely should do it.

38 Kevin December 29, 2012 at 6:08 pm

I stopped in the frozen food aisle of the supermarket today and happened to mention to the guy stocking the cabinets that I thought he had the toughest job in the whole store. I worked for the A & P when I was in high school, and frozen food IS the toughest job. Walking in and out of a cooler that’s 30 below zero 8 or 10 times per shift and see how YOU like it. Anyway, I could tell that I’d made this guy’s day. He started telling me all kinds of stuff about his job which I knew to be true, having done it myself. He seemed truly grateful that somebody understood and appreciated his efforts. It’s worth doing, as often as possible.

39 Charlie January 2, 2013 at 1:47 pm

How about an article on how to manly accept a compliment without seeming like a you’re blowing the compliment off or acting like your a pompous ass. There has to be a fine line there.

40 Conar January 9, 2013 at 10:59 am

So true! Compliments are absolutely wonderful and not common enough.

Though, I don’t know if they’d have the same kick if they were more common.

Either way, appreciation is a key to the heart and it’s been the bases of most of my close relationships.

I heavily advocate this article.

It’s a well written and truthful article.

Keep up the good work, Brett and Kate!

41 RB January 25, 2013 at 8:55 pm

It’s true that a sincere compliment goes a long way.

42 Grant February 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Thanks I needed to hear that.

43 Kithinji, Kenya February 20, 2013 at 3:35 am

I stumbled into this “art” three hours ago, i haven’t left. Good Job.

The Bible (Man’s manual) says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians4:29

44 Kithinji, Kenya February 20, 2013 at 3:48 am

I stumbled into this “art” three hours ago and i haven’t left, wisdom springs is what this is…

The man’s manual in Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”. The Bible

45 Mark March 9, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Great article, and something that I ponder every week. I work mainly with women, and, on the whole, most are quite attractive, regardless of age. Yet, no-one has ever paid them a compliment in their lives. For example, I might say something like, ‘Here’s where all of the beautiful people are hanging out.’ One of them will take me aside and say. ‘You weren’t talking about me, were you?’ Well yes!

Like I say, most people don’t get enough compliments for their looks, clothes, job well done, etc.

46 lizzi April 16, 2013 at 4:43 am

Thanks so much i have really enjoyed your teachings on compliments, that has just happened to recently my boss got hold of my certificates and complimented something that wasn’t really rewarding so it broke my hurt so much on him giving out job to people with fake certificates n telling me to try next time because i cant get vacancy with my low grad genuine papers i felt bad with his compliments but after i have read your article i know something good is in await no matter what compliments he made towards me.

47 J. Michael July 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Thank you for this! I stumbled upon this site via a LifeHacker article regarding Benjamin Franklin’s virtues and I have decided I will frequently read your content! In fact, I love it all so much, I subscribed! ;) I’m impressed with the correct grammar, well-organized, and eloquently articulated content. Too few strive to encourage *true* manliness, so thank you for spurring us on!

48 Sean November 12, 2013 at 4:19 am

Since we are on the topic of compliments, let me just say that i really enjoy this site. The positive contents are a refreshing change from the otherwise negativeness of the rest of the internet. We need more sites like this one. More power to you guys!

49 george varkey December 15, 2013 at 3:11 am

Great article reminds me how great and inspiring this site is. This article made me the passive reader comment. Keep up the great work.

50 Pontus January 23, 2014 at 7:09 am

Great read, this one. Very inspiring!

Everytime i stumble upon an article at this site im pleasantly supprised by the quality work. It is idd a freah breath of air, finding myself on this part of the internet. keep it going!

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