Happy Compliments Day : How to Give and Receive Compliments

In celebration of the US National Compliments Day January 23. Let’s give more compliments!


I have received some pretty amazing compliments over the years. Like many of you out there, I was bad at receiving compliments. Like you, I appreciate it. If nothing else, smile and bathe in the glow of the gratitude others have for you!

The thing about gratitude is that it is a deep well you can dip into, over and over, when tough times come a’knocking. I have posted up in various places at home and on my phone the best compliments I’ve EVER gotten. When I’m feeling down, uninspired, and conflicted, I whip them out and instantly, I remember a greater truth, feeling renewed.

IMHO the best compliments are when people recognize who you are, not in comparison to your siblings (or cousins), fellow students, others of your ethnic/professional/national identity/association/tribe. We do not need to elevate someone by lowering other people.

When you hear a truly sincere heart-felt celebration of you, doesn’t it just feel amazing to have another person see you as you see yourself (and sometimes maybe even more)? It’s like someone can see right into the deepest parts of who you are, that inner light. And not some accidental genetic inheritance (though those do come in handy) or some changeable physical trait?

Here’s what I learned about receiving compliments

  1. For introverts, the impulse is to hide somewhere, and quick. Some people don’t want to appear egotistical or conceited. Either way, stand firm and smile. Remember eye contact. Say thank you even though you are feeling all at once grateful, surprised, embarrassed, maybe ambushed, and maybe even on the verge of tears of appreciation and recognition.
  2. Do not feel compelled to return the compliment with a compliment as a way to deflect (see #1), reject or even to thank the other person.
  3. It’s okay to say nothing, aside from “thank you” that is. Do not downplay the compliment or diminish it with examples (from your own head) why it is exaggerated like “oh, it wasn’t that great” or “I don’t know how I pulled it off” (when you know perfectly well how).

About giving compliments

  1. Be specific. What exactly about the way the person carried off a project was amazing? Was it exciting, creative, heartwarming, inspirational? Lots of people comment on someone’s beautiful eyes – what is it about the eyes? Do they sparkle? Do they smile like a million stars?
  2. Never use “always”. No one always does something. No one is always the perfect party host, for example and even if your friend is pretty much the perfect host and it may be a compliment, let’s not make that an expectation and a high bar she feels she must then meet.
  3. As a woman, I appreciate compliments on who I am, not what I look like. It’s a personal thing; I do try to compliment kids, especially girls, on accomplishment, rather than only outer beauty. Maybe it’s a great stylish outfit they put together or how interesting a lego village they’ve built. It compels us to look deeper and with more presence at another person, at who they really are.
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