We all love to receive positive comments about ourselves. It’s like receiving a Christmas card from a loved one in the mail! Compliments should establish a sense of respect and rapport between two parties, but that’s not always the case. Why? Is it because of the “Big Red Button Syndrome”? Selfishness? Or a simple misunderstanding?
Compliments are essentially a form of feedback. You can convey messages about performance, decisions, or personalities among many other things. These messages are all beneficial to the recipient in terms of learning what behavior to maintain and where they should seek improvement. In a sense, it allows you to evaluate yourself through a set of an outsider’s eyes.
What if a subordinate did a really great job on a task? How would he know that his behavior is worthy of recurrence? Or on a personal level, what about someone who has the unique ability to raise your spirits? Do they know that they’re appreciated? They deserve something! It’s important to recognize and respect the presence and knowledge of others.
Giving the Gift
Many people have trouble conveying compliments. Just think of a boss, friend, or family member who has trouble expressing their feelings. They may not give the gift of a positive comment to others because they may rarely be the recipient of one themselves. Or they’re simply too shy. In either case, they simply don’t know how to form a string of positive words together.
The opposite may be true as well. They may know how to compliment, but thoughtlessly refuse to. Some believe that compliments show weakness (“If I tell him he’s doing a good job then he might think I’m inferior and incapable!”). So instead of exposing their self-perceived inadequacies, they retreat into their protective shell and say nothing at all.
The Gift Recipe: Context. Opinion. Truth.
The key to conveying positive feedback is to provide context, give your opinion and finally, offering the truth:
Context. Why are you providing the compliment? Did they do something that astonished you? Are they always proactive? Good decision makers? Caring and generous people? Identify the context and initiate your comments with this in mind. And make sure that there is a context, otherwise you may come across as though you’re force-feeding a compliment. Doing so can cause you to immediately lose any shred of credibility you have left.
Opinion. Don’t give a canned compliment. Ever. “What’s a ‘canned’ compliment?”, you ask? Well, they’re recycled lines that are as stale as 10-year-old baked bread. Canned compliments can be those overused “pick-up” lines you hear jokes about, or just those generic “keep up the good work” cold professional lines.
“The Big Red Button Syndrome”
Canned compliments are counterproductive. It’s almost as if the comment is pre-recorded and the big red button is pressed each time it’s needed. I like to call it the “Big Red Button Syndrome.” Don’t fall into this trap, instead, give your own unique view of things. Each compliment should be a genuine sentiment of the current point in time, not something you see that works in the movies or any how-to book!
Truth. How do you truly feel? Give an honest opinion and your compliment will become even more powerful. If you really liked how a job was completed by a coworker or if you think a new sweater looks great on your friend, let them know! If you’re truly honest, you’ll gain trust and you will suddenly become more influential as your opinions will become more and more valuable!
Another really effective trick in the gift giving process is to actually go out of your way to give a compliment. Don’t just speak up when you feel it’s easiest for you, but instead make a special trip and shock the recipient. Make it unexpected! For example, if your coworker or subordinate did a great job and you’d like to thank them, don’t just call to convey your message, visit them at their desk and convey your sentiments face to face. It’s these little things that are often passed over as unimportant but are often the first thing to be noticed!