top of page

The power of giving compliments

A compliment is a polite positive expression of praise or admiration to someone for something. A token of appreciation or in some cases "little powerful gifts of love".

Compliments are sentences or words that strengthen of what is going well. Performance related compliments are an outcome from something we learned about praiseworthy actions and efforts done by someone individually or a team.

But compliments could also be interpersonal and related to

  • Character: “You have such a positive influence”

  • Appearance: “This suit you wear makes you younger”

  • Meaning: “You make me believe in this”

  • Opportunities “The best is yet to come, thanks to you”.

Giving a compliment is a sign of mindfulness. It makes us more aware of the good developments and positive atmosphere in business and our private life.

Compliments are not the same as flattery or acknowledgements. Flattery is an excessive (false) praise often used for own advantage. While compliments may come across as a bit high level or general (“good job”, or “well done”), an acknowledgement makes it more personal. So, make sure that there is a kind of personal endorsement when giving a compliment.

It is important to give compliments, as it functions as a social lubricant that helps to start, maintain and develop relationships. After all, we are all social human beings and we all would like to be a part of the organization, being understood and acknowledged by our colleagues and contribute to the success of the company in a meaningful way.

A well given compliment is a kind of confirmation of this; it brings people, in a positive way, closer together and can create so much positive energy that it will give the receiver wings to go for the extra mile. It makes people happier and more successful. Especially the people with low self-confidence, performance anxiety or colleagues that just started with their first job!

Several studies (Sugawara et al 2012; Zandstra, 2017; Zhao & Epley 2019; Boothby & Bohns 2020) report that compliments enhance performance, boost self-perception, and affirm right behaviour and actions.

Moreover, compliments not only deliver positive effects to others, those effects bounce back to creating a positive spirit.

However, a lot of people find it hard or feel uncomfortable to give compliments. Many don’t realize how transformative compliments are, they misestimate their compliment’s value, or ithey may be triggered by an egocentric bias. Another reason is that they are afraid of giving compliments in the wrong way, so that the recipient feels awkward and that could backfire.

Resulting in the fact that many people are not generous in giving compliments.

Do not wait with giving a compliment till the annual performance review. Raise the frequency. Give compliments when appropriate and not with a predictable timing (last Friday of the month is compliments day), but build-in a “surprise factor”.

Compliments only work when they are an honest reflection of what we feel; if we indeed mean it and when it is real. The receiving party will quickly see though it when it is false, and they interpret it as a way trying to get something (the hidden calendar). It makes the giver untrustworthy and it creates suspicions about motives for the compliment, which can destabilise the relationship.

But be careful: showing real sincere appreciation is difficult to do.

A good compliment is:

  • Concrete. Explain in detail what the compliment is about

  • Positive. Accentuating why you praise. What has been done, not what was not included.

  • Supported with specific examples to make it more tangible.

  • Delivered in person. With a smile.


  • don’t inflate. Too much is never good. And it may come across as flattery.

  • don’t say something in general, like: “You are perfect”, “Well done”, etc. Rather be specific: “You made a good point about customer during our meeting”.

  • avoid to start the compliment with “I” such as “I really appreciated the level of detail in this report”, because you’re making it about yourself and your opinion. And it is about the other. The fact that you give the compliment shows that it comes from you. That is enough.

  • don’t link a compliment to something bad in the past, like: “Finally you are on time!” There is a hidden criticism in this compliment.

Make it a part of your lifestyle and you and your colleagues will be more successful and happier!

There is much more to say about compliments. Please contact me if you would like to get more information or would like to be coached on Giving Compliments.


PS: Next blog is about Receiving Compliments.

119 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page