Do you tend to bestow compliments with ease and accept them with grace?

Ironically, despite the current obsession to like and be liked on social media, many haven’t mastered the nuances of giving and receiving praise. Instead of producing positive feelings and promoting goodwill, compliments often end up creating awkward moments and even causing resentment.

Taking a step back to assess motives, circumstances, and perspectives from both sides could help to inspire messages that resonate in the best possible way and produce positive feelings.

What to consider if giving a compliment:

1. Your True Intention

-      Is making the person feel good and/or appreciated your primary purpose?

-      Are you striving to motivate or inspire someone, or generate goodwill?

-      Are you aiming to score brownie points with the person or someone else?

-      Are you operating from some other ulterior motive to your advantage?

-      Are you judging the individual’s reaction in a critical way, such as thinking how readily the person grabbed up the compliment?

Most can see through insincerity, so avoid doling out praise if your words are not genuine.

2. The Context

-      Is it the right time?

-      Is it the right setting?

-      Are you the appropriate one to extend the compliment?

-      Should the presentation be formal or casual?

-      Should the compliment be made in person or put in writing?

-      Should the compliment be extended privately or publicly?

-      If others are present, are they the appropriate ones to hear the compliment?

The right compliment in the wrong context could lose its potency, cause embarrassment, and/or create other complications, so take a step back to decide when, where, and how to deliver it.

3. Your Message

-      Do your words, tone, and body language all coincide with a worthy intention?

-      Do your words compliment on the surface but insult on a deeper level?

-      Have you gone too far?

-      Have you gone far enough?

Whether the compliment seems small or great in your mind, your words and delivery can leave a powerful, lasting impact.

4. The Recipient

-       Is the individual someone who is comfortable with compliments?

-       Will the compliment elicit the desired result?

-       Is the individual the right one to be complimented?

-       Should others be included?

When relaying a compliment with all the best intentions, place your focus on the recipient(s) and say and/or do whatever possible to elicit a positive reaction.

What to consider if receiving a compliment:

A.       If you feel insecure when someone compliments you, then practice accepting such words by complimenting yourself aloud and saying thank you in a gracious tone.

Avoid downplaying or denying the compliment, both of which second-guess the judgement and sincerity of the person bestowing it and show your lack of appreciation.

B.       If you question the giver’s intentions, strive not to exhibit any distrust; instead, respond politely and perhaps look inward to understand why you might feel that way.

Avoid seeing the worst in others, even if ulterior motives are involved. Focus on the positive and take the compliment at face value.

C.       If you know that others should be included in the compliment, then accept it by acknowledging your role and/or naming the contributions of others.

Avoid causing embarrassment or ill will towards the person who complimented you, and don’t alienate any other(s) who deserved the praise.

D.       If you feel the compliment is inappropriate, then use discretion regarding how you react to it.

Avoid jumping to conclusions but don’t shy away from asking a person to explain what he or she meant and setting boundaries. In some situations, you may decide that not engaging at all will prevent future interactions of a questionable nature.

Final Thoughts
Even if one’s delivery is imperfect, an earnest compliment can do so much good: foster a sense of wellbeing, nourish a relationship, bounce back to the giver, and flow to others. Any of those benefits beats a thoughtless, offhanded insult that inflicts irreparable damage.

My best to you,

Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady

Thoughts or questions? Please contact Sallie Boyles, owner of Write Lady Inc., to exchange ideas about effective communications and gain from professional writing and editing services. Receive monthly tips and insights by subscribing at