The How and the Why of Giving Compliments

In this week’s Pinkcast, Dan meets with Vanessa Bohns, a social psychologist at Cornell University and author ofΒ You Have More Influence Than You Think: How We Underestimate Our Power of Persuasion, and Why It Matters.

Vanessa offers advice on why we should be more willing to give people compliments, and how to do so most effectively.

Bohns notes that many people hold back on saying nice things about other people for a couple of reasons. One is that we may think that we are annoying people, or that we might stumble over our words. Another reason for not giving compliments is that we underestimate how good it makes a person feel, perhaps thinking the person has already heard it before or doesn’t really care what we have to say.

Vanessa then offers three tips on how to give effective compliments:

  1. make sure your compliment shows the other person respect
  2. don’t worry about how you say the compliment because people just like hearing nice things about themselves
  3. give compliments often

This all sounds good (nice job, Dan and Vanessa!), but I wonder if it can lead to too much false or superficial praise.

But if any of you are looking to practice your compliment giving, feel to do so in the comments (even if it is superficial)

Here’s the Pinkcast video:

*image from TCOYD

95 thoughts on “The How and the Why of Giving Compliments

      1. That’s true. Maybe I really would write my own eulogy. But I’d pack it full of lies, fictional anecdotes, and exaggerations, that would leave everyone in attendance scratching their heads. Assuming anyone attends.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. A friend of mine were talking about something similar years ago when we were in high school and I’m not sure why but we decided if we had something nice to say to someone we would just say it without being shy and I’ve been doing that ever since. It’s really nice to see someone’s face light up when you tell them something nice. I think in order to stop it becoming a false/superficial thing only give out praise when you mean it. Don’t do it all the time for no reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As someone who frequently gives out compliments, here are my thoughts:
    1. When giving compliments, only give them if they are sincere.
    2. When complimenting someone, go beyond the superficial (You’re so pretty) and emphasize traits that aren’t typically recognized. (I like the way you parent your child. I wish that I had your patience. I enjoy hanging out with you because you’re fun to be around.)
    3. While I agree with Dan that most people like receiving compliments, I think one can overdo it. Compliments lose their steam and power if we repeat the same ones daily.

    By the way, compliments were part of my daily playbook as an elementary teacher. Kids are no different than the rest of us. They want to feel that their teachers like them and are glad they are there. If a child came in late, I never understood teachers who purposely humiliated a student. For young children, their parents are more responsible than anyone else for getting them there on time. If a child came in late and seemed upset, I would often go over to them and whisper that I was glad they were there. It worked wonders, and upset children would often smile back and relax.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. as usual, your comments are so much better than the post itself.

      it’s hard to argue with the three points you make.

      I think if I whispered to my students when they came in late, they would never be late again because they would be so creeped out πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    2. great points. especially this: “Compliments lose their steam and power if we repeat the same ones daily.”
      Had not understood why this bugs me so much, but yes, receiving or even hearing a repeated, superficial compliment to someone else REALLY annoys me–it not only feels insincere but also manipulative somehow.

      Meanwhile, the sincere, unusual compliment “emphasizing traits that aren’t typically recognized”?
      I never forget it and try to live up to it.
      Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I constantly give compliments, esp on small things… hoping to brighten others’ days by having someone noticd and to encourage them to pay it forward.

    We have a bulletin board at work for complimenting coworkers.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I just remembered… my last job had it’s own internal social media platform. And we got credits to give away every month which translated to $$ for recipients. But you could also post w/o credits.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I started offering more positive reinforcement to my dogs, and it seems to be translating to humans when deserved. I have to be careful though not to call my husband ‘good boy’ when he’s done something right.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pete is right, give them only when sincere and not repeated frequently to the same person or they lose their power, such as ‘good job!’ to a child in a classroom. better to personalize it and be sincere. I also love to give compliments and would love to give you one now, Jim. I like the way you type and put words together.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I give compliments often. I used to worry they would seem insincere, then I realized it didn’t matter. If people didn’t believe me, that was on them. But if they did believe me, I’d have made them feel good. Too often people only speak up with complaints. I try to balance the scales if I can. (Probably a fruitless pursuit, but I think it’s worth the effort nonetheless.)

    On that note, I’ll end with one. I love your blog. You always give me something fascinating to consider or simply put a smile on my face. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. well said, Staci. I agree that people seem more willing to complain than compliment, so it is nice to be able to balance that out.

      And I am always impressed with how generous you are with your time and your words when reviewing the works of other authors.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope this doesn’t make you uncomfortable, but I’m glad Pete Springer recommended your blog to me. Your posts have ranged from humorous to profound, and I agree with your tagline that you are an overall great person πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha thanks Jim, I so appreciate it! I think more than you’ll ever know πŸ˜ŠπŸ€—

        And I’m also glad to have been introduced to yours! I enjoy your perseverance to write every day, and your short doses of lighthearted ponderings are perfect for me πŸ˜ŠπŸŽ‰

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I come from a culture that does not compliment often, and I distinctly remember how good and worthy it made me feel when I received a compliment. For those reasons, complimenting others does not come naturally to me, but at the same time I am making a conscious effort to compliment others around me. Your posts are always enlightening in one way or another, while making us smile, so thanks for that!

    Liked by 1 person

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