Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Compliments Are Free...So Why Don't We Give Them More Often?

In the course of a typical day, we encounter a lot of people – at home, at work, and everywhere in between. And during those instances, we have many opportunities to compliment, thank or praise someone, yet we don’t. We could say things like:

“Thanks for the detailed attention you gave to completing that report. You covered all the bases really well.”

“I appreciate your being on time since we have a lot of material to cover.”

“I love the way that shirt brings out the color of your eyes.”

“That was a fantastic dinner. Thank you for the time you spent fixing it. I enjoyed every morsel!”
Ever thought about why we withhold positive words when it would cost us nothing to give them? I have.

Here are some of my conclusions.

First, we get busy. We’re moving fast and we don’t take time to notice, much less comment on, the good someone else has done or the value they’ve added to our lives.

And, we’re pre-occupied with ourselves. Most people think about themselves most of the time. Even when we're with those we profess to hold dear, we’re usually reflecting on our own problems, plans and priorities.

Both of these instances can be corrected by simply slowing down and focusing our attention outside ourselves so we're more observant. Then it’s easy to find opportunities to give positive feedback.

The last one is trickier because it’s a reflection of our self-esteem.

At times we consciously withhold praise because we think we’ll appear inferior in some way if we pay someone else a compliment. We have a twisted view that somehow, saying positive words to another takes away from our own self-worth. But the reality is, the opposite is true.

The more you give positive feedback to others, the better you’ll feel about yourself. Your own life is enriched when you are generous with compliments, provided they are heart-felt. The simple act of expressing gratitude and appreciation adds to your own happiness.

So don’t wait. Start today to find something positive to say to every person you interact with. You’ll make your world a better place because you'll be enriching the lives of the people in it, including your own.


  1. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful post!!
    I am practicing it everyday myself too. Every time I give a heartfelt compliment I feel as though the same positive energy is being reflected back at me. :)

  2. This is absolutely true and very effective. Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful post. Love it.

  3. Mary and Andy, I appreciate your taking time to comment and give me positive feedback. Reminds me once again the impact that positive feedback can have on the recipient. That alone should motivate us to look for opportunities every day to share genuine compliments with as many people as possible!

  4. Meredith,

    Thanks for a great blog. It's practical and challenging. I'm proof you can get better and encouraging others with compliments. I never did it that much but now I do it all the time and it encourages everyone.

    I think a synonym for leaders is cheerleader.

    Thanks again,

    Leadership Freak
    Dan Rockwell

  5. Dan, I appreciate your comment and I'm checking out your cheerleader blog. Compliments ARE an excellent form of encouragement.

  6. Meredith,

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving an encouraging comment.

    All the best... you practice what you preach.


  7. Hi Meredith,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this interesting topic. I have found that publicly complementing people is contagious. It can lead to a more positive family and work environment. People really enjoy it when others recognize their efforts.

    You do have to be careful that your praise is genuine. Praise to accomplish some goal is pretty transparent. You can usually tell when someone is missing the mark when they pubically refuse the complement and direct it elsewhere.

    It is a great idea to acknowledge people and to praise their extra effort and you are so right it is free.

  8. A beautiful reminder. Thanks for that, Meredith.

    It doesn't cost at all (a bit of courage, perhaps). But everyone feels better afterwards. Another positive aspect - when we exercise giving compliments, we become more open towards others, more empathetic and humane. The flip side - we learn to receive feedback ourselves.

    Take care.


  9. Ron, you are so right about the impact of giving praise to people in front of others. It's a powerful way to acknowledge a contribution and make make others aware of it. And of course, it's absolutely essential to be sincere when doing it. Otherwise, not only are the words discounted, the relationship has been damaged because trust is broken.

    Lech, I love the two additional benefits you mention for having the courage to give compliments. Indeed, our compassion for and connection to others deepens as we see the positive impact that our words can have on another human being.

  10. Meredith:
    As always, your words reach out and touch the best impulses in us.
    Thank you.

  11. Thank YOU, Wayne, for your positive feedback. You always warm my heart with your kind words.

  12. A Wonderful post.

    I think that it is also important to remember that often when we ourselves don't get positive personal feedback from someone else it is not about us but due to the other people in our lives simply being busy or distracted.

    Often we tend to take it in a negative personal manner if we don't get compliments - we worry that people don't like us or don't like what we do or that we don't look good. Lack of positive feedback can lead to us feeling un-noticed and un-loved.

    So, I say a big yes to complimenting! Thanks for promoting it Meredith. Compliments build everyone's happiness and make the world a brighter place.

  13. Janine, you make such an important point. When we take things personally as you describe, it's a sign of our own insecurity and low self-esteem. The more OK we are with ourselves, the less likely we are to take offense as such slights. I really appreciate your taking time to contribute your thoughts to this vital topic.

  14. Thx Meredith for the fantastic blog. Sincere praise I do it more often now with very effective returns....

  15. great post! Slowing down an extra couple of seconds is the difference between taking the opportunity to make someone's day and missing the boat.

    On flip side - I think struggling to accept a compliment is also a challenge. I don't know how many times I say, "oh, it's nothing" vs. "thank you - I appreciate your noticing". In my opinion, dismissing the compliment also dismisses the person giving it.

    Good Stuff!


  16. Thanks for your comment, Lisa, and you make an excellent point about receiving compliments. If we think about it as rejecting a gift someone is trying to give us, we might be less likely to say something that diminishes it.


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