The art of giving compliments

Even in our fast-paced world, compliments matter. Give a good compliment and you can change someone’s day for the better. Learn how to give a good compliment in this helpful guide.

What is a compliment, anyway?

Basically, a compliment involves saying something nice about someone or something. For example, “You look great today” or “I was really impressed with what you just did”.

It seems so simple but it is possible to get compliments very wrong. Without the right tone, timing or intention, you run the risk of offending someone instead of making them happy. 

Let’s break down how to give good compliments so you never need to worry about stuffing up.

Good vs bad compliments

Compliments have the power to make a person feel good about themselves or their accomplishments. People like to receive compliments and they usually appreciate the person who shares them.

However, an inappropriate compliment makes people feel uncomfortable or even frightened. If someone doesn’t know the person giving the compliment well or if the compliment is too enthusiastic, it can be off putting.

A man and women sat opposite each other smiling

Then there’s the infamous back-handed compliment, which is actually a put-down in disguise. For example, “You seem really happy even though you have a big stain on your shirt.”

When to give a compliment

If someone you know or admire is deserving of praise, go right ahead and give them a compliment.

If your workmate has made tasty morning tea, it deserves a compliment. A friend with a nice new haircut deserves a compliment too. Just make sure your compliment is genuine. Don’t give compliments because you feel you have to.

How to give a good compliment: The compliment danger zone

Be aware of the complications of compliments. If you are a man, for instance, and you find yourself alone with a woman you don’t know well, complimenting her figure may come across as creepy.

Then there’s timing. If someone appears distressed, it might not be the best time to tell her what nice eyes she has. If two people are in deep conversation, it may not be appreciated if you butt in and tell one of them that the cake they brought last week was delicious.

Compliments need not be gushing. Yes your co-worker nailed a presentation but it isn’t necessary to follow them around to tell them how great they are. A brief congratulatory email or a short “I thought what you did was fantastic!” is enough.

How to give a good compliment to a stranger

If you have ever received an appropriate compliment from a stranger, you’ll know they can make you feel great. Generally, when complimenting a stranger, the tip is to keep it general and not too personal.

A photo of a compliment on a sticky note being held up by one hand. It says "You are beautiful".

Saying “I love those shoes” or “That performance was amazing” is great. Saying “Wow! You have the tiniest feet! I love that!”’ is a bit weird.

When you compliment a stranger, make it quick and keep moving. It’s unlikely they have a big interest in talking with you in-depth.

Giving compliments to loved ones

Loved ones are the easiest to compliment but are all too often forgotten.

You know enough about your loved ones to know what to compliment them on and when. The main problem is forgetting and taking things for granted.

Try to compliment your loved ones every day, even if it’s just saying “Dinner was lovely”, “You look nice today”, or “I love your positive energy”. A little love goes a long way!

How to give a good compliment at work

At work, you must be a little more careful. There is appropriate workplace behaviour and sexual harassment must be avoided.

There’s never a reason to compliment a co-worker in a sexual or provocative manner. Give thoughtful compliments, stay appropriate and sincere.

In general, avoid complimenting people for their looks. Most of us don’t come to work to be stared at. The exception is if they have obviously put thought into a new outfit.

A picture of a man and women conversing, possibly practising the art of giving a complimentSend your compliments in writing

Now you know how to give a good compliment, why not take things a step further and write it in a card?

Tell your friend she’s Flawless, use a great comparison with Top Shelf, let your bestie know that she is a Champion or share some Aussie flora and fauna imagery with your own compliment inside.

Check out La La Land for the perfect card to convey your most well-thought-out compliments to someone wonderful.

Compliment cardGreeting card - unicornGreeting card

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