An ode to the subtle art of giving true compliments

With giving compliments you won’t exactly make bank, pay the rent or become insanely rich (and famous). But did you know, that social rewards in fact have the same effect on your brain as receiving a cash reward? There’s scientific proof that it activates the same reward areas in the brain (like the striatum).

Moreover, it’s proven that complimenting improves learning skills, productivity and attitudes – when done well. Too bad the positive power of giving praise is so worldly underestimated. We say: let’s change that.

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Let’s be honest, we all love a good compliment, don’t we? But why is it, that we give them so little? If you know you have the power to turn someone’s bad day around, wouldn’t you do so? Besides, giving compliments is also beneficial for the giver – you’ll notice that your kindness will have a ripple effect. After all, happiness is contagious.

How about next time you notice a team member or co-worker is having an off day, you cheer him on with a nice compliment? But make it genuine one, pretty please. As people can sniff out phoniness from a planet away and the whole praise giving will completely lose its purpose.

False flattery is really uncool

As we mentioned before, research proves that when being paid a compliment, it actually lights up the same reward areas in the brain, as when actually getting paid. Imagine someone rewarding you with fake money – wouldn’t that feel like a betrayal? Well, the same goes for faux flattery. Don’t tell your coworker their new flaming red hair colour looks stunning, when you actually think she looks like Elmo and in fact find it quite hideous. People can tell when you have ulterior motives and it will leave you portraying yourself as untrustworthy. Quite the opposite result of building a strong relationship.

How to give a compliment, then?

Don’t worry, you don’t need to take a Giving Praise 101 class. But there are a few tips on how to turn a compliment into a powerful acknowledgement. First, make sure you really pay attention to the person that’s in front of you and, moreover, try to remember their names – it’s a small effort, right? ‘A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language’, as Dale Carnegie wrote in his book How to win friends and influence people.

Secondly, be genuinely interested in people – it will make you a more interesting person for it. Moreover, try not to be too generic. Per example, ‘good job’ is a nice compliment, same goes for calling people ‘pretty’ or ‘smart,’ but that’s applicable to everyone. Be more specific, precise. And last, but not least: drop the ‘I’ in your compliments. Say ‘you did a great job on hosting that event’ instead of: ‘I thought you did a great job on hosting that event.’ This way, you won’t make it about you. These tiny tweaks can make a big difference.

A subtle art

High time to let the subtle art of complimenting make its comeback. Let’s make people feel good about themselves again. Appreciated, seen and recognised.

 Oh, and in the light of all this, we would like to take the opportunity to tell you that you’re doing awesome today. You rock.

Now, let’s start spreading that praise, folks.

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