Use Compliments to Make People Grow – And Yourself Too

Green Sapling

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.”
Albert Einstein

How come we are so quick to criticise others, but so lousy to praise?

To pay a compliment can be difficult in the beginning if you are not used to it. It takes courage to approach someone and say your opinion.

When properly used, a compliment is a fantastic tool to make others grow and strengthen their self-image. It strengthens good behaviour. It creates trust and strengthens emotional bonds.

If abused, it can have the opposite effect.

But how should we compliment and avoid misunderstandings? Of course we would like our message to be well received.

Pay Well-Deserved Compliments

Pay a compliment when you see someone do something you honestly think is good. You pay it because it was well-earned.

When we receive a compliment for something we did well it has a positive impact. We know we performed well, and are honestly appreciated for it. This makes us want to do it again. It strengthens motivation and self-image.

Never compliment just because you “should”, because social conditions say you should. Such compliments are false, and have no value. Compliment because you think it is worth a compliment, and for no other reason.

Compliment something you think is well done. Never ever compliment something that is bad. This will be sensed, and interpreted like you are trying to curry favour, and will somehow make use of it. It will have a negative effect.

If you want to say that something is bad, it is better if you criticise properly. This will get people to listen to you.

A compliment delivers a message. It tells that the receiver did something well, that you noticed it, and also had the courage to tell it.

How could anyone resist something like that?

Be Specific About Why You Pay a Compliment

Most of us do not think we deserve appreciation. Our little inner voice tells us so. That is why we need a way to present the compliment that will bypass the little inner voice. (See the book recommendation at the end about mastering your inner voice.)

Often we begin with paying the compliment, and after that we either tell the reason why, or we just ignore it. What will happen? Well, our inner voice will say to us “You are just saying that, you don’t mean it.” We question the compliment. We have received no motivation, or a delayed one, for it.

Woman Cooking KimchiHow does this sound? “You are an excellent chef”.

Instantly the inner voice tells us “Why do you think I am a good chef? Are you trying to curry favour?”.

You will bypass the inner voice by first telling what you have observed, and then paying the compliment.

How does this sound to you? “The food was perfectly cooked, and really left my mouth watering. You prepared a dish that was really tasty. In addition you had it beautifully dished up.” (Telling what you have observed) “You are an excellent chef.” (The compliment)

By first telling the reason, giving the evidence, it won’t be questioned. We heard the motivation before we were given praise. The message was successfully received.

Young Woman In Stylish DressIf you say: “Nice dress you are wearing”, you may hear the answer “Oh, it’s nothing. I bought it in a second-hand store.”

You will get a better result by saying: “I like the colours of your dress, and how it is matching your shoes. It is a very nice dress you are wearing.”

You added several reasons why you like it, so the most likely response is: “Thank you.”

Most important of all: Only pay compliments that you really mean. Both your body posture and your voice will confirm that your appreciation is indeed honest. It will also be very obvious if it is not, so beware.

Only compliment if you really think someone is worth it. Tell the person why he is receiving a compliment, followed by the compliment itself.

Pay a compliment just for the satisfaction of making someone happy, without expecting anything in return. Then you will deliver it properly.

Want to Show Extra Appreciation? Give a Reward

If you think it was an extraordinary achievement that is worth something extra, you can combine the compliment with a reward to have a greater impact. Tell your opinion about the achievement, and that you would like to thank with a reward.

Wrapped Gift BoxThe reward could be a good dinner, a gift, a service, or something else that you feel is appropriate. It is not the cost of the reward that is important, but the thought behind it.

Make it personal. If he has talked about watching the premiere of a movie, arrange for two tickets and watch it together. Does he have a favourite dish? Cook it for him.

It is important that you give the reward after the achievement, and you could see that the result is satisfactory.

By all means make it a surprise gift, if you feel like it. This adds an extra twist to it.

Don’t reward people who do not deserve it. That is a mistake. If you do, you will teach them that they do not have to do anything to be rewarded, and amplify that behaviour. Eventually they will require a reward, and be angry if they do not get it. This is not what you want to happen.

Reward people who deserve it.

Always Say Thank You When You Are Paid a Compliment

Boy With Thank You BoardDon’t underestimate the value of a simple “Thank you”.
Always take a compliment by saying “Thank you”. Let it come from your heart!

Just like when you show appreciation, it is important that your “Thank you” is honest, that you really mean it.

A “Thank you” makes the giver happy that his compliment was well received.

Extremely Important – Compliment and Reward Yourself!

When was the last time you praised yourself, or rewarded yourself properly? This is something we often forget. Yet you are the most important person in your life.

You decided to do something. And you really accomplished it. You are worth a compliment and a reward.

It might feel strange in the beginning. It will pass. Get used to it. Compliment yourself! Reward yourself! After a well done achievement you are worth to feel good.

It strengthens your self-esteem, and makes it more fun next time you will do it.

When you have successfully achieved something, however small or large it may be, make sure to compliment and reward yourself.

But What If the Compliment Is Not Well Received?

You will find there are people who do not understand your appreciation. They look strangely at you, and you get a feeling that something is wrong.

They might have been in a bad mood that day, or something else prevents them from taking your well intended compliment. They may not even exist in their conceptual world.

You did your best to appreciate their achievement. Congratulate yourself for trying, and be happy with that.

Focus on people in your life who give you energy.

An Exercise to Improve Your Compliment Skills

Grand Shopping CentreThis is a simple exercise if you want to become better at paying compliments.

Next time you are in the city or in a shopping centre, I want you to notice people who do or wear something that you honestly like.

Show courage and tell them what you appreciate about them. Do it just for the joy of doing it, without expecting anything in return.

I will appreciate if you add a comment to this article and tell me the outcome of your bold compliments.


Compliment when someone has deserved it, and do it honestly.

Tell what you have observed, and then pay your compliment.

Compliment for the joy of giving, without expecting anything in return.

If you feel it was worth it, reward as well, and reward after the work has been done.

Say “Thank you” when you take a compliment or reward.

Compliment and reward yourself. Often!

How do you use compliments in your everyday life? Please add a comment below.

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6 Responses to Use Compliments to Make People Grow – And Yourself Too

  1. Michael Holm says:

    When showing interest in other people ( the positive kind) or something they value it’s the fastet way there is to gain someone’s trust. A good choice of further reading could be Dale Carnegies “How to win friends and influence people” – Great topic Stefan.

    PS: I made an experience with a friend last week where we influence eachother by both positive and negative energy, and even though we know eachother and we know that its a playfield it very fast effected our behaviour and the way we see eachother !

    • Thank you for your comment, Michael. You are quite right that best way to get rapport with someone is to show genuine interest in them.
      I read “How to win friends and influence people” about 10 years ago. That book gave me lots of ideas, and many of them I still use today. Maybe it is time for me to read that book again. I will definitely add it to my recommended books.
      I am curious about what you mean by influencing each other both positively and negatively. I’m not sure I am going too private, but could you tell me what happened, and the outcome? It sound like something I could learn from.

    • Bloom Oleary says:

      I have a well worn copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” on my shelf. Stefan’s post does a wonderful expanding on when we should compliment other people. It’s always nice when someone is specific in how they praise your work. It makes all the difference in the world.

  2. this it probably the BEST Article i Ever read . congrats

    the more you give Thanks the more reasons you’ll receive for that . Brian Tracy


    • Thank you, Adrianos! I take it as a great compliment. I like the inspirational posts on your blog. You have very much to give. I will follow your blog with great interest.