How to Give and Receive Compliments, Better
Are You Screwing This Common Interaction Up?
You may not know it, but there is an art to giving and receiving compliments.
And if you are not a practicing artist, you are likely missing the full effect of receiving appreciation. Furthermore, the compliments you pay are likely going in one ear and out the other.
How to Give Compliments
The way we normally give compliments is too general to really have the impact we desire. A better way to give compliments is to tell someone exactly what they did and how you felt when they did it. Or who they are and how you feel seeing them this way. Here are some simple examples of the normal way, and how to improve.
Normal: I like your earrings.
Improved: Those earrings really capture the kind of spunk and vitality that I admire in you.
Normal: Good job on the video.
Improved: You picked really great statements and flowed them together perfectly to create a short story that had integrity and held together in a way that co-created the message being delivered. I trust your skills even more than before.
Normal: You are a good friend.
Improved: You are so good at listening to me when I’m in trouble that I sometimes feel incapable of providing you with the same feeling of support.
Note that you do not have to refrain from the general—in fact it is a great way to start the compliment. It can get you in the ballpark and make it easier to focus in. Also note that it does not have to be glowing. Sometimes the honesty of someone making you feel inadequate or uncertain actually allows the compliment to land. Why? Because if it is true, it is likely being communicated on some level already. Bringing it out into the open allows the other person to feel their reactions more fully in their complex reality.
How to Receive Compliments
You might have already guessed, but the best way to receive compliments is to check in with how you really feel and express it.
This means taking a moment to feel the impact in your body and psyche.
This means not immediately telling the other person “Thank you,” “you’re welcome,” or “The same goes to you!”
Compliment: This food is delicious, thank you for having us over!
Response: It’s my pleasure. Providing for people is one of my favorite things to do, and I love to be generous with people I care about.
And you can do this even when the other person is not specific. For example:
Compliment: Thank you for being so open and communicative.
Response: You’re welcome. Hearing that I feel warm and notice myself relaxing.
It might seem weird at first because it is not normal, but if you can really feel what you say, most people will find it a refreshing way to be heard. You can vary up responsive phrases that integrate easily into conversation like “hearing that” “now that you say it.”
You can also ask for clarification. For example:
Compliment: You’re pretty.
Response: I feel shy when you say that, but I also want to know specifically what you like and how you feel about it.
Compliment: You’re so smart.
Response: Thank you. I appreciate that but I’m honestly a little skeptical of your intention behind saying that. Do you admire my intelligence, do you feel camaraderie, are you envious, do you think that I some responsibility, or something else?
You Probably Already Do This
In truth, most people already do this. But there are a variety of extra benefits to bringing conscious attention to your speech patterns and habits of relating. The more you do it, the more gratitude will be apparent in your life. Your relationships will deepen, and connection will come more quickly. You will start to notice little things you can change to be more aligned with your purpose and goals.
And, of course, you will find a little more happiness.