Don’t Be Cheap on Compliments – They Go a Long Way


Did you know that getting compliments triggers the same area in the brain as receiving cash? This is something for all of us to think about and consider. What it basically means is that you leave your house, every morning, with stacks of $20s, $50s, and $100s to give out to people. For free. And, nothing will be missing from your checking account.

Remarkable. But it also means that receiving a cash incentive is perceived in the brain in the same manner as receiving any other form of validation.

It boosts our sense of worth and accomplishment. Now bear this in mind.

Cheesy compliments that are not candid will be dismissed by the receiver, and he or she will read right through them. Genuine compliments will have a tremendous effect.

Table of Contents

What is a Compliment?

A compliment is a positive expression of praise or admiration given to someone to acknowledge their qualities, achievements, or actions. It’s a way of showing appreciation and making someone feel good about themselves.

What Are the Benefits of Giving Compliments?

Giving compliments not only activates the reward system of the brain but actually makes both you and the person receiving the compliment feel good.

The benefits of giving someone a genuine compliment are:

  1. Boosting Confidence: Compliments can enhance a person’s self-esteem and confidence by recognizing and appreciating their strengths or achievements.
  2. Strengthening Relationships: Complimenting others fosters positive connections and strengthens relationships. It creates a more supportive and friendly environment.
  3. Encouraging Positive Behavior: Compliments can reinforce positive behavior and motivate individuals to continue making efforts or improvements.
  4. Improving Mood: Receiving compliments triggers the release of feel-good hormones, such as serotonin, leading to an improved mood and overall sense of well-being.
  5. Building Trust: Regularly giving sincere compliments builds trust and goodwill, as it demonstrates a genuine and positive attitude towards others.
  6. Enhancing Communication: Compliments contribute to effective communication by creating a positive atmosphere and encouraging open and constructive dialogue.
  7. Creating a Positive Culture: In workplaces or social settings, a culture of recognition through compliments can contribute to a positive and motivating environment.

Compliments Means Noticing

So often we see people doing remarkable things. We point out to them that it has not gone unnoticed. We have noticed their efforts or accomplishments.

The other person knows that we care, and feels appreciated and validated.  Do you know what people who feel validated and appreciated do? They feel as if you have just handed them $100 just like that, out of the blue. That’s right.

The person will come back for more. They will seek your approval and will repeat the behavior that resulted in that validation. Wouldn’t you?

The truth of the matter is that we all seek some form of validation, to some extent. We want to feel good about ourselves. Everyone wants to feel that they matter. That they are noticed, and that they are appreciated. There is no single person who is completely free from the need for validation. It is an innate need, and when you think of it. It is completely understandable.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be recognized for your merits. True, you should value yourself first and foremost.

Compliments also reinforce a good narrative for ourselves. That we are hardworking, that we are smart, that we are kind, that we are beautiful inside and out, powerful and resourceful. Whatever it may be that causes us to feel good about ourselves- is recognized.

How To Give Genuine Compliments

When a person compliments someone you might have one of two reactions. Some people tend to accept compliments but others might feel awkward about accepting praise.

This happens when discomfort arises when there’s a perceived inconsistency between how one sees oneself and the positive feedback received. This can happen because of low self-esteem, not receiving praise or recognition in the past, or things like impostor syndrome.

Encouraging a positive and supportive environment, where genuine compliments are acknowledged and appreciated, can contribute to a more comfortable and accepting response to praise.

The Importance of Compliments

Social media is centered exactly around that need. Whether you’re a man or woman, compliments are welcome. Whether you are an employer looking to increase engagement. Or, if you are a parent looking to increase motivation. You might even be a person among people looking to be kinder and live in a kinder world. Look around you. Do you see something that you think is commendable? Are you observing someone who is doing great? Do you see someone making an effort or doing something exceptional?

If so, go ahead and tell them that they are great, and tell them why. Give them that $100 bill. It will not be missing in your checking account, and you will get another loyal member to your team of supporters.

It’s important to note that a good compliment has to be genuine. People often overlook expressing praise so it’s a good habit to encourage and compliment people.

Tips on Giving Compliments

Here are a few tips for expressing gratitude and giving compliments, especially for people who might feel uncomfortable receiving compliments.

It’s a good habit to so approach it with sensitivity and respect for their comfort level. Here are some tips:

  1. Be Specific and Sincere:
    Tailor your compliment to something specific and genuine about the person. This makes it more personal and authentic, reducing the likelihood of them feeling uncomfortable.
  2. Use Positive Language:
  3. Frame your compliment positively. Focus on expressing admiration for a specific quality or achievement.
  4. Acknowledge Their Feelings:
    Recognize that they might feel awkward or uncomfortable. You can say something like, “I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I genuinely appreciate [specific quality/achievement].”
  5. Encourage Positive Self-Talk:
    Link your compliment to encouraging positive self-talk. For instance, “I hope you recognize how great you are at [specific skill]. It’s something I’ve always admired.”
  6. Offer Praise for Effort:
    If the person feels awkward about their achievements, focus on their effort rather than the outcome. Acknowledge the hard work and dedication they’ve put into something.
  7. Stay Away from Comparisons:
    Avoid comparing people. This can lead to feelings of competition or inadequacy. Each person is unique, and their qualities should be acknowledged independently.

How Can I Make My Compliments More Specific and Meaningful?

 Meaningful compliments center on recognizing someone’s efforts, someone’s work. When you say for example that ‘you have a nice sweater’ you basically gave someone a nickel. It does not have the same impact as a truly meaningful full compliment.

A meaningful compliment can truly brighten someone’s day and is a thoughtful gesture when it recognizes their originality in addressing something, their ideas, or their work.

Being specific is key when it comes to giving genuine compliments as it shows the person you’re genuine and thoughtful.

Vague or ambiguous compliments can be confusing. Instead, be specific about what you appreciate, whether it’s a particular skill, achievement, or quality.

How Can I Avoid Giving Compliments That Are Offensive or Awkward?

By being thoughtful, specific, and respectful of the other person’s feelings and context, you can give compliments that are more likely to be well-received and positively contribute to the interaction.

The nature of your relationship with the person matters. Compliments in professional settings should be focused on work-related accomplishments.

Find the right moment, such as complimenting someone on how great their presentation was or how they tackled a difficult problem. Showing appreciation for someone’s skills is much more rewarding.

How to Receive Compliments

Accepting compliments is not about boasting but about acknowledging the positive feedback.

Receiving compliments involves expressing gratitude for the acknowledgment.

Most of the time a simple “Thank you” is enough.

Avoid self-deprecation or overexplaining, and instead, acknowledge the effort put into the complimented action.

Be open to positive feedback without downplaying your achievements. You are worthy of praise and you take advantage of the confidence boost when someone recognizes your achievements.

Overall, receiving compliments is about creating a positive exchange and contributing to more supportive relationships, whether at work or in your day-to-day life.

Dr. Michelle Rozen
Dr. Michelle Rozen

Dr. Michelle Rozen, Ph.D., is a highly respected authority on the psychology of change. She is one of the most booked motivational speakers nationwide as well as internationally, and a frequent guest on media outlets such as NBC, ABC, FOX News, and CNN on topics related to dealing with change in our world and in every aspect of our lives, so that we can do better and feel better.

Her most recent book, 2 Second Decisions helps people power through with their most challenging decisions through turbulent times.

Dr. Michelle Rozen consistently speaks for Fortune 500 companies and her clients include some of the most recognizable companies in the world including Johnson & Johnson, Merrill Lynch, Pfizer, and The U.S. Navy. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Psychology and resides in the greater NYC area.

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