How to give a compliment or encouragement.

If I don’t think I’m attractive, calling me attractive will not make me feel attractive.  I assume you are just lying but doing so to make me feel better.  But if you tell me that you think I look attractive in an outfit I like, I will accept it.  Because I looked at myself in the mirror that morning and thought the outfit looked good.  You tied my attractiveness to something I agreed with and so I accepted it.

Also, don’t say things you don’t mean. The more often you do, the more I am going to discount all your future comments to me.

We all do it.  We toss out generic compliments or words of encouragement that we don’t mean because that is what is expected and that is how we make connections.

We do it so persistently that when we do say what we honestly think, no one is really sure if its real.  We no longer believe each other because most of those phrases  have become background filler conversation.

I posit that poorly considered compliments are worse than saying nothing or even criticism.

Saying something to the effect of “intelligent, kind, gutsy, loyal, adventurous, artistic, empathetic, persistent, capable, beautiful  or whatever person.” is just pointless.  Lovely adjectives that don’t seem related to the person that you tossed them to and so the person doesn’t actually know why you think that.  Therefore it can be assumed to be part of the connective filler conversations that don’t mean squat.

On the other hand, if you say,

“Wow, you are solved that software glitch.  No one else who tried figured that out,”

“You are kind to her even when she is trying to be mean to you, you never say a mean thing back.”

When you tie a compliment to the reason you think it, the person will recognize you mean it.  It’s not just words to fill a gap.

And if you are a supervisor this is HUGE!!!  Do not say generic things like ‘You are good at the job’.  Say something specific.  ‘Your reports are easy to read.’  ‘Your feedback in the meeting really made a difference.’   ‘That idea is really going to save time.’

And more importantly, it doesn’t even have to be a compliment.  Recognizing that someone does something is  huge.   ‘You were the first to take the call’   People like knowing other people are aware of those little things they do every day.  It seems trivial but its huge in impact to mention it.

The only compliments I believe are ones that are tied to a specific thing.  Because then I can find some internal logic to agree.  And if I don’t agree at least superficially that there is something to it, the compliment is rejected and I suspect you didn’t mean it.

I don’t think I’m the only one who does this.  And that is why so many people have a hard time accepting a compliment.

On a daily basis, let’s stop throwing out generic compliments.  We do it as conversational filler, as a way to get people to like us, or as a way to make someone feel better because their distress makes us feel awkward.  But most of us don’t really believe those compliments.

For things to have meaning they need context.  Please stop and think because your good intentions are actually rather pointless to your intended recipients.

7 thoughts on “How to give a compliment or encouragement.

      1. Here’s what my boss says, “You did a good job”, “You do great work”, “Thanks for that”, “Nice work” … that’s about the extent of their sentence structure.

        Sometimes I don’t even what is being referred to because there an NO details. None.


      2. Yeah. People think its the words. Its not. Its the recognition of the act. Just saying “Thank you for the spread sheet you sent everyone”, is better than “great job.” Because it recognizes the actual work.

        Liked by 1 person

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