It’s always nice to hear something nice. But giving a compliment doesn’t come easily to all of us. So how do you properly tell someone that they mean something or have done something or in some way inspired you? To help with a “how to give good compliments” NBC News sat down with Marcia Naomi Berger, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in San Rafael, California, and author of “Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted“. Ms. Berger laid out 5 key points to giving a good compliment.
1. Compliments should be sincere – It is one thing to tell someone something nice, but if it is a lie; chances are they will suss it out, if you don’t truly mean it it also won’t have the same connection or impact with the person.
2. Pay attention – Key to giving compliments is paying attention to the people around you and paying attention to the details. “Notice what you like or appreciate about the person,” Berger says. This will also help you with the next point.
3. Be specific – The best compliments are specific. That means if you find someone has done a good job of their make-up, instead of saying that they look pretty, tell them that they have done a good job with their make-up. Or instead of “You look so handsome in that blue shirt you’re wearing.” add “It matches your eyes.” Let them know what specific thing you are complimenting.
4. When it comes to giving compliments, make it rain – If you are not giving compliments to the people close to you; how will they know you appreciate them or anything about them? Let them know how and why you want to keep them close to you in your life. Do it daily. It’s really easy to take one another for granted or only make a point of mentioning the negative things that need solutions. So making a concerted effort to notice all the good things about your partner (or family member or friend) is important. As an added bonus – If you get in the habit of giving compliments frequently, you’ll get in the habit of noticing what’s going well frequently, too, she says. And that can help strengthen any relationship.
5. Know if praise makes the other person uncomfortable – For people with low self-esteem, there’s actually some research to suggest that compliments do not tend to be well-accepted, explains Joanne Wood, Professor of Psychology at University of Waterloo, who researches the topic. “This difficulty seems likely to stem from their resistance to information that contradicts their world view — people appear to be highly motivated to hold on to their self-views, even if they are negative.” A better way to interact with someone who has this difficulty is to show interest in them, instead of voicing compliments.
On the flip side of giving a compliment is receiving them; and Berger only had one additional point to cover that.
6. Receive compliments with grace – At times people feel uncomfortable receiving compliments because they were taught (or might think) that accepting them equates to bragging, Berger says. But it’s not. Compliments are about communicating with those around you what you appreciate and what’s working. Learning how to graciously accept compliments is just as important as learning how to give them, Berger says. After all, denying a compliment is another way of telling someone that they’re wrong or that their opinion or perspective is wrong (which is kind of rude if you think about it). “It’s like refusing to accept a gift from someone,” Berger says.
While there are those of us who might need another 4 points to help with accepting a compliment gracefully, it was added that “When in doubt, a simple ‘thank you’ works.”