How To Consistently Compliment People the Right Way

How well do you consistently compliment the people you work with for their positive qualities?

To become more consistent and alert to the opportunities for complimenting those you work with requires gaining certain personal habits of communication and a level of understanding about compliments.

Let’s explore this further.

1. Start small by setting a manageable goal with complimenting others. Don’t pretend you will consistently compliment everyone you work with daily. Instead, start small and work at complimenting just one person each day. By not overwhelming yourself with an unattainable goal you are more likely to succeed.

Keep an online or handwritten journal of your acts of complimenting people. Write who you complimented, what you complimented them for, and what you observed in the recipient’s reaction to your words and actions. You might even record what you said or wrote to the person.

2. Analyze what prevents you from complimenting those around you. Different things stop each of us from successfully implementing new habits we desire to do but seem to put off. Examine your life carefully and be candid about what prevents you from complimenting people more often.

Perhaps the nature of your work prevents you from getting out and seeing or talking with people and learning what they do that merits being complimented. The best leading indicator of recognition is personal interaction with others to learn the positive things they’re doing.

One director I know met with the manager direct reports weekly to learn what wonderful things their staff had achieved that week. This allowed them to use the online recognition program to compliment staff for actions they would never have learned about.

And if you don’t know what to say when complimenting staff keep reading below.

3. Understand what people typically compliment others for. Research shows that the most common compliment topics that people acknowledge others for are their appearance, their possessions, their abilities, and an individual’s personality traits.

When expressing admiration to someone, especially for their appearance, be clear and specific, and avoid any expression that could be considered as sexual or harassing in nature.

Hopefully, knowing these types of factors that trigger compliments will be helpful to you when considering the people you work with.

Become familiar with and confident on how to compliment someone. There are different ways in which you can express a compliment to someone. Let me provide you with some linguistic pragmatic examples to draw upon.

Drawing on academic insights gleaned from the research of Najeeb Taher Al-Mansoob, K. S. Patil, and Yasser Mohammed Alrefaee in their study on A Cross-cultural Study of The Speech Act of Compliments in American English and Yemeni Arabic here are some interesting findings.

I will just refer to the American English results in the study. They have shown American English native speakers to use the following compliment strategies the most frequent:

1.    Admiration (34.3%)

2.    Congratulation (12.1%)

3.    Question (11.2%)

4.    Happiness (9.2%)

Admiration compliments are demonstrated by statements that explicitly use verbs such as like or love and often includes an insertion of positive adjectives such as “pretty, great, nice…etc.” (It’s very nice; I really like it.)

Congratulation statements, as expected, congratulate the addressee for a specific achievement or traits and always contain the word “congratulations”. 

Question types of compliments make use of the interrogative form when complimenting, such as, “What have you done to remain so young?”

The Happiness compliment format relies on expressing a person’s happiness for some aspect in the addressee’s life, such as “I am so happy for your success!”

This should give you some ideas for how to vary and word your expressions of compliments to those you work with.

Recognition Reflection: How consistently do you express compliments to those you work with?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

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