(October 2018)

Last month we looked at criticism; for October we will look at the aspects of compliments. Although it seems unusual that a person would have trouble receiving a compliment, it does present difficulty for some people. And on the other hand, people can have a problem with giving a compliment to someone. So let’s look at some principles for both receiving and giving it.

What is a compliment? It is showing one’s appreciation and high regard for something or someone, an endorsement or approval. It can stir within us the desire to let that person know that we liked something. It can be shown in different ways such as a nod of the head, applause, facial expressions, but also can be expressed with words.

Compliments can:

  • Be a conversation starter
  • Connect people
  • Help to get the focus off self
  • Lift another person’s spirits
  • Encourage and support

But sometimes we hold back for a variety of reasons:

  • Self-consciousness
  • Uncertain of words to use
  • Concern about the reception it might get
  • Past negative experiences


  1. Make sure it is appropriate.
    1. Setting: the workplace is an environment where it is best to compliment on achievements and abilities. Example: “You offered some great ideas at the meeting.”
    2. Gender: to avoid any unintended perceptions, stick to personal qualities. Example: “I notice you always take time to greet everyone. I like your friendliness.”
  1. Be specific.

A general compliment is nice to receive “You look nice today” but “That shade of blue is definitely your colour” is more effective. If you’ve given a general one, you can add to it “You  look nice every day but that shade of blue is definitely your colour.”

Another example: General: “You gave a great talk.”  Specific: “You gave a great talk. I learned several new things.”

  1. Be sincere.

Make sure you are genuine in your remarks. Flattery can usually be detected and puts into question your motives and character. That also means don’t overdo it. You can mention one or two things you admire but keep it at a minimum. There will probably be other occasions when you can give another compliment.


As mentioned already, although compliments are intended to make someone feel good, it may not have that effect on everyone. This may be because of:

  • Self-consciousness
  • Uncertainty of how to respond
  • Concern about the intent of the compliment
  • Past negative experiences
  • Desire to appear “modest”



  1. Always be polite.

Regardless of being self-conscious or not knowing what else to say, those two words “thank you” acknowledge the person giving the compliment.

  1. Always be gracious.

Even if the compliment seems insincere or overdone, your response can be kind.  Again, “thank you” can be sufficient.

  1. Give credit where due.

If the compliment should be shared make sure you acknowledge that. Example “Yes, isn’t it lovely? My mom made this for me.” or “I had the help of many people behind the scene. I’ll let them know you liked it.”

  1. Don’t downplay the compliment.

If someone has taken the time and effort to compliment you, to reply in any of the following ways is to discount what they have said. They will go away thinking their opinion didn’t matter and may refrain from giving other compliments. Things to NOT say:

It was nothing.” or “No, I’m not.” or “this old thing?” or “I could have done this and this better


So, let’s try to make our world a little better by giving authentic compliments

and thoughtfully acknowledging them when received.


Judith S. Carscadden