How to Give a Sincere Compliment

When talking about giving compliments I suppose I have to get this part out of the way right up front. “This part” is the part about when to give a compliment. I also suppose we have to talk about what to compliment…and maybe what NOT to compliment.

This has gotten much tougher over the years. Let me give you an example. A friend of mine works for a large medical device company. He has worked there for a number of years, he is a well regarded engineer and has a spotless employment record. Not too long ago he was suspended for complimenting a female co-worker on her appearance; specifically how she looked in a new sweater she was wearing.

The woman he complemented seemed to appreciate the compliment. His problem started when a person who was not even a part of the conversation overheard the compliment and was offended by it. They thought it was inappropriate and offensive that he was commenting on another employees appearance.

They thought it was so inappropriate that they complained to the HR department. After a short “investigation” my friend was suspended. That might cause a person to swear off giving compliments entirely.

Did I mention that the co-worker my friend complimented was also his sister? Did I mention that he had given her the sweater for her birthday a few days before?

Even though situations like that might cause some people to completely stop the practice of giving compliments I still recommend giving them.

But give real compliments.

A real compliment has two parts.

Part one is the compliment itself. “I appreciate the extra effort you put in to help that customer work through their technical issues.”

Part two is the evidence that supports the compliment. “The reason I say that is I watched your interaction with the customer. Many people would have become frustrated with and dismissive of the customer. You kept your cool and turned a negative customer experience into a positive one.”

Have you ever received a compliment that caused you to wonder about the motives of the person giving you the compliment? It’s likely that they didn’t provide evidence to support the compliment. That evidence leaves no doubt as to the sincerity of the compliment.

Don’t give half a compliment. Always attach supporting evidence so no one has to wonder about your motives. If you can’t think of any evidence to support the compliment then ask yourself if the compliment is really worth giving. I’d suggest that it’s not.

In the politically correct world in which we now live I’d also suggest keeping your compliments focused on performance and abilities. It’s not “safe” to comment on things like appearance anymore and the reality is that in many cases it probably always was inappropriate.

But real compliments can change a person’s day. Maybe even their life. So look for real reasons to compliment others. As Dale Carnegie said, be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

The No Recognition Zone

If you’re in a leadership position then you must know this absolute fact: people need and respond to recognition. If you’re actually going to lead however you must do more than know it, you must actively practice the skill of recognizing those you lead. 

 

People have needed recognition since…well since Adam complimented Eve on her choice of apples….okay, so that didn’t work out so well but you get my point.

 

It’s amazing to me that even though they know this fact so many people in leadership positions fail to recognize their people for their efforts. I guess they just get busy or they think their people already know that they are important to the organization. (I’ve used those two poor excuses myself)

 

But the most effective leaders are never too busy…or lazy, to recognize their people. They are incredibly intentional and consistent with recognition and compliments for their team. They make it a point to look for reasons to compliment; they make it a habit to recognize someone on an almost daily basis. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders create a culture of recognition within their organizations. They understand that recognition helps keep their people engaged and motivated. 

 

As a leader you simply cannot afford to fail in this area. You must set aside time in your day just for this purpose. I often ask leaders of organizations what their greatest asset is within their organization. They almost always say it’s their people. 

 

Then, in very nearly the next breath, they tell me that they don’t have the time to consistently recognize their people. When I point out that spending time on less important things while pretty much ignoring their greatest asset is not a great recipe for success they realize the mistake they have been making.

 

Don’t make that all too common mistake, plan some recognition time into your day. Encourage others on your team to recognize their fellow team members, make your organization one where even the little successes are celebrated. If the recognition is done with sincerity it never gets old. 

 

If your organization is known as a no recognition zone, well that kind of environment gets old pretty darn quick. 

 

So right now, reach out to someone in person, through a phone call or even an email and let them know they matter, let them know you recognize and appreciate them and their efforts. 


It truly takes so little time when compared to the value it will add to their day. So go ahead …do it now!

How to Give a Compliment

Ever wondered if a compliment you received was sincere? Others wonder that about the compliments you give sometimes too. 

Every compliment you’ve ever given may have been sincere and heartfelt but sadly some people do use compliments to manipulate others. That can make even your sincere compliments suspect too.

If you want to make certain that your compliments are received with the same sincerity as they are given then prove that they are sincere.

Just like with anything else you hope to prove you’ll need evidence to offer as proof.

An unquestionably sincere compliment really has two parts, the actual compliment and then the evidence that supports it as true and sincere.

For instance, I could merely tell someone that they did a nice job. They can then begin to wonder what I meant, they can wonder if I really meant it and they can wonder if I’m expecting “something” in return. In short, they can wonder about my motives. 

If you’ll just put a little more effort into the compliments you give you can take all the wonder out of them.

As an example… I tell someone that they did a nice job. Then I add…”the reason I say that is because I used to do that job. I can tell by your results that you paid great attention to the details required to achieve that excellent result. Not everyone cares enough to do that, I appreciate that about you, your results say a lot about who you are. You truly did a great job!”

There is not a whole lot to wonder about there. In almost every case a compliment, when backed up by evidence showing why you paid the compliment in the first place, will be accepted at face value. The more specific your evidence is the less wonder there will be.

It’s not a lot of effort to make the compliments you give truly matter but there is one more thing you can do to make them truly last.

Put them in writing! Investing 5 minutes to write out your compliment, with the supporting evidence, will make an even bigger difference than just saying it. Investing a few minutes to write out your compliment can increase it’s significance ten-fold. 

It takes so little yet it means so much. If you’re going to give a compliment then really, really give a compliment. 

Try it, I can almost guarantee that you’ll like it and I can absolutely guarantee that the person you compliment will love it! 

How to Give a Sincere Compliment

Has someone ever given you a compliment and you subconsciously questioned their motives? Perhaps it was even subconsciously. Maybe you just downright wondered if they wanted something in return.

It’s nice to give compliments. It’s better to give unquestionably sincere ones. The kind that leaves no doubt that you meant what you said and that you expect nothing in return. Sometimes we just throw out complements in kind of a mindless fashion. We mean what we say, we just don’t put enough thought into it to make certain the person on the receiving it knows how sincere we are.

An unquestionably sincere compliment actually has two parts. The compliment and the evidence to back it up. Think of it this way; you give someone a compliment and then notice this look on their face. The look indicates that they are wondering why you said that.

So don’t let them wonder. 

Immediately after giving the compliment just add “and the reason I say that is.” The “reason” is the evidence. It adds depth to the compliment, it supports it’s sincerity. It leaves no doubt as to your motive for giving it. The compliment becomes more valuable. 

This takes a bit of work, it requires some thought before you just toss out the next “nice job” compliment. It’s worth it however when you see the difference in how people respond to what you’ve said. Give it a try and see for yourself. 

I can’t end a post about giving compliments without at least mentioning the proper way to receive one. 

Never give a compliment back. By that I mean when someone says “nice shirt,” don’t respond by saying “this old thing.” When you say that you’ve just refused the compliment and may even have offended the person who gave you the compliment.

The only proper way of responding to a compliment is to say “thank you.” Nothing more is needed. Just say thanks! 

Hey, while we’re at it, thanks for reading this post.