“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
-Leo Buscaglia, Author, Speaker, Professor. 1924-1998
Let’s be honest, we all love a compliment. It’s human nature. When someone notices something about us, whether it’s how we’re dressed, a physical feature such as a smile or the weight we’ve lost, or something we accomplished in the workplace, it makes our day. We stand a little taller, feel better about ourselves, and it encourages us to want to do more.
Hearing a compliment means someone has noticed something about us, and has taken the time to let us know. Unfortunately, compliments seem to be in short supply these days.
I try to live my life according to the following philosophy (at least in the business world): “Instead of catching someone doing something wrong, catch them doing something right.” And make sure you tell them. As Leo Buscaglia said in the quote above, it has the potential to turn someone’s life around, because you never know what that person is going through in their personal or professional life.
There are good ways to give complements, and then there are better ways to give compliments:
- Be specific with your compliments. While general compliments are good (Great job everyone!), it’s better to be specific with each individual (Mary, I really liked the way you handled the Baker project. You overcame their objections, and found a great way to solve their problem).
- People love to hear their own name. Make sure you know how to pronounce it correctly.
- Be authentic with your praise. If you are superficial, people will see right through you. Don’t confuse a compliment with flattery.
- Compliments build trust and create positive reinforcement.
- If at all possible, praise in public (and reprimand in private).
- If you are given a compliment, be gracious and humble. Thank the person, and don’t downplay or dismiss it. You will insult the giver. Take it for the praise and approval it is meant to be.
You never know when you have the opportunity to affect someone’s life, even in a small but significant way. A number of years ago, I took a new hire into my office to welcome him to the team, and let him know how happy we were to have him in the company. I mentioned a few specific things he had done in his first few weeks that impressed me. Nothing spectacular, as he hadn’t been with us very long, but just letting him know he was an integral part of the group. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it, as I always tried to do this with new hires. About 10 years later, after he had worked his way up the corporate ladder, he told me he never forgot that short 5 minute meeting, because it meant so much to him. And to this day, he brings in all new recruits for a private 5 minute meeting, to let them know how important they are. It made a lasting impression on me that I made a lasting impression on him.
Compliments are free, can affect people in all sorts of positive ways, and are a win-win for all involved. Don’t be stingy with your compliments or praise for people. You never know when you have the opportunity to positively affect someone’s life.