The secret of a sincere compliment

"Wow, that's a nice dress!" "Yeah, it was in the sales." Does this sound familiar? Appreciating a compliment is often just as difficult as giving one. And it's so simple. Say "Thank you" and enjoy the moment instead of talking right over it.

During my lectures, I often pose the question: "When was the last time you received a compliment at work that touched you? The reaction is mostly an anxious silence.

Sincere compliments are about feelings, which we still find difficult to express. Apparently, we feel better in ourselves if we say what doesn't go well - and that, according to me, we do too often. If people on the shop floor aim for the positive themselves then I'm convinced that the heart of every organisation (read: The employees) will beat faster.

Appreciation is a basic need. "Hello, here I am! Recognise who I am and appreciate me for what I do." Why would you not let your manager know about this need if you don't feel it? And yes, of course, as manager, you may and must sometimes make adjustments. But what do you do in addition? Are you going to coach on merit and talent or do you choose the easy way by saying only what is not good or what must be different?

World Compliment Day (1st March) is approaching and it is terrific that this event is currently fixed as standard in the calendars of many organisations. World Compliment Day will make people aware of what a sincere compliment can do not only for another but also for you. Of course you do not then go around the whole day making "quasi funny remarks to everyone like "Doesn't you hair look nice" or "Didn't you do that well" without meaning it.

This day is all about acting from the heart with appreciative communication. This is what the instigator Hans Poortvliet hopes everyone will do. During the last few years, I have been able to work together with Hans together. One privilege being that, time and time again, I am inspired by Hans's enthusiasm to make the World more positive. He is a fantastic person that truly has positivism in his dna. Thank you Hans and keep on spreading this positivism to all of us and guide us how to communicate differently.

My three tips for giving compliments that touch people.

  1. Be sincere: Act according to your own feelings. Don't begin with impersonal statements like "the organisation finds..." but dare to speak from within: "I am touched by your presentation" or, "I find it special what you have done".

  2. Say why you find something positive: "You've done that well" is an empty compliment. Say what you find positive: "The way you touched the group with your story I find special".

  3. Do it in your own way: Everyone is different and therefore also in the way they give compliments. Do you really want to touch someone with a compliment then do it in your way from your own feelings? Choose they way you like to communicate best, but in an appreciative manner. Force nothing. Sometimes it is really difficult to say something to someone in a direct way. Your way could also be an e-mail or a hand-written card.

No matter which way you choose: the power of a compliment is unprecedented. Experience it and see what it does for you and to your team and this does not have to wait until (or after) the first of March.

Thank you for reading this to the last line.

Moniek van Rheenen-Schreurs