As a mental health therapist, I often work with people who have difficulty making and keeping healthy friendships, as well as other relationships (coworkers, family members, partners, and the list goes on and on). Among the struggles I often hear is not knowing how to sincerely connect with someone.
One way to connect is by giving sincere compliments.
Compliments are a great way to connect because they make both the giver and the recipient of the compliment feel good. People enjoy being around other pleasant people, so if you make someone feel good, that person may be more likely to want to spend more time around and with you.
It might sound simple on the surface, but the people I work with in therapy sometimes struggle with how to give sincere compliments to others. I offer the following four tips to keep in mind:
1. Be Genuine
Don’t give a compliment if you don’t mean it. If you tell someone you enjoy something when in reality it disgusts you, and they find out later, it may hurt your ability to be trusted or be taken seriously in the future. You don’t want to be considered a liar, no matter how good your intentions are. Genuine behavior is generally appreciated, and people may be more likely to respect what you say if you truly mean it.
2. Look for the Good
People enjoy hearing positive feedback. By focusing on the good, or the benefit, of someone’s personality, skill, interest, or other area you wish to compliment, you make it easier for a receptive response. If you find it difficult to compliment someone sincerely in a certain area, try looking at the situation from their perspective and what may have influenced their choices.
3. Focus on Your Feelings
When you focus on the pleasant feeling the recipient of your compliment feels, it feels good to them as well. When someone brings joy, love, or another pleasant emotion to someone else, it often makes them feel that same emotion in return.
4. Keep It Simple
Keeping your compliments simple and to a minimum may help strengthen your connection to the other person. When you give too many compliments, or engage in giving grandiose, complicated compliments, it can feel uncomfortable and a little off-putting. Keep your compliments to one to three at a time. In these situations, less is often more.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) offers an entire module focus on learning skills to improve one’s interpersonal effectiveness (the way one communicates and connects with others). One of the skill sets in this module is a great way to help people learn how to give sincere compliments. To remember these skills, DBT uses the acronym GIVE:
- Gentle: Have a soft, gentle approach to your tone, word choice, and attitude.
- Interested: Be genuinely interested in the person and the content of your conversation.
- Validate: Think about and let the other person know their experience is real and understandable, even if you don’t agree with it.
- Easygoing: Be flexible and have an easygoing manner.
An example of a sincere compliment using the GIVE formula is as follows:
- Gentle: “You’re a good friend.”
- Interested: “I really appreciated your help with my project the other day.”
- Validate: “It wasn’t easy, but we got through it. Your helpfulness is really great!”
- Easygoing: “Thanks, buddy.”
I’d love to hear your experiences giving and receiving compliments. Please share your most appreciated compliments below and how it felt to give or receive them.
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