How to Give Compliments

Ever wondered how to deliver a compliment? The Public Speaker Lisa B. Marshall explains why giving a compliment is good for the giver and the receiver.   

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #298
Executive writing well done!

A successful compliment must also be appropriate. Here in the U.S., it’s rarely appropriate for a boss to comment about the appearance of an employee, or for an employee to comment on the appearance of a superior.

If you have that kind of relationship in your office, you can judge better about this, but these compliments should generally remain between friends. And be careful when talking about weight, or some other touchy subject. If you gush about how great a person looks now that he or she has lost weight, you run the risk of insulting the person, who might start thinking, “You must have thought I looked hideous before!” Obviously, that’s not your intention, but people can be sensitive, so tread lightly.

Time to Deliver Your Compliment

When delivering your compliment, smile and be enthusiastic. Let your tone of voice be sincere, not condescending, envious, or surprised at the person’s great performance. You know how the meaning of a sentence can change depending on which word you emphasize.

What Are The Best Compliments?

Interestingly, it is much more valuable to compliment a person’s hard work than a person’s natural abilities. Forget, “You’re so talented!” or “You’re a natural!” Ongoing studies have shown that children who are praised for completing a task due to their own efforts or creativity worked longer on difficult projects and succeeded more often than children who were praised for being smart or talented. And this is not true only for children. In fact, the New Yorker used this research to suggest Enron fell because employees who are concerned about always looking “good” or “smart” will either be afraid to take risks, grow, and learn, or will try to cover up mistakes, compounding them further. So, sometimes it can be a good idea to praise a person for taking a risk or thinking outside the box, even when things didn’t quite work out.

So, what does a great compliment sound like? How about, “Jeanette, I wanted you to know I have been getting some very positive feedback from clients about you. I heard about your creativity and quickly addressed the issue at Marshall Company and that the webinar you delivered was interesting, engaging, and educational. I appreciate your hard work.”

Sincere, specific, and short. Spoken with a positive tone and a smile, praising effort rather than natural talent. That is how to compliment.

This is The Public Speaker Lisa B. Marshall, helping you move from information to influence. Your success is my business. If you want to learn more about communication and leadership, I invite you to read my bestselling book, Smart Talk, and listen to my other podcast with the same name, Smart Talk

Well done image courtesy of Shutterstock.



About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.

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