How to Give and Receive Compliments

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Compliments are "little gifts of love," wrote author Hara Estroff Marano in "Psychology Today." These non-monetary expressions of praise reflect a generosity of spirit. A teacher compliments his student on a well-written essay, a boss compliments his workers on making a sale and a daughter compliments her father's selection of ties. Pay compliments without expecting anything in return, but always express appreciation when you receive a compliment.

Paying Compliments

Pay a compliment when you become aware of a praiseworthy situation or effort, recommends Marano. You can even rehearse the delivery of your compliment beforehand so that you are confident delivering them.

Be genuine when you pay a compliment. If you do not mean it, do not say it. People can usually sense insincerity.

Make the compliment specific and appropriate. For example, instead of saying, "Great job," say something like "Great job. I appreciate the way you explained the risk of the project."

Ensure appropriateness. A compliment that works in one context might not work in another. For example, you could compliment a colleague on her outfit at a company picnic, but not at a meeting of senior managers in front of everybody.

Phrase the compliment in the form of a question. This could be a good way to start a social conversation and put a new employee or a colleague at ease. For example, you could say something like "I like the way you have approached this problem. Did you learn that at school?" The conversation could then proceed to a discussion of schools, the education system and other issues.

Receiving Compliments

Make eye contact and listen to the person paying the compliment. Do not interrupt him. If you receive the compliment in electronic form, read it carefully before dashing off a response.

Receive the compliment graciously and with a smile. Say thanks to indicate that you have heard the compliment and you accept it without hesitation or reservation.

Respond positively. For example, if a person pays you a compliment about your house, do not start complaining about a leaky faucet or some other sign of imperfection.

Assume that the person paying the compliments has noble intentions. She may not, but you can deal with that later. Do not suspect motives or think negative thoughts because that could influence your response. For example, if someone compliments you on your clothes, do not be dismissive or sarcastic. Acknowledge the compliment by saying thanks.

Continue the conversation in a positive vein. For example, if somebody compliments your new garden, express your appreciation and ask about ways to control weeds or the best time to plant tulip seeds. You may know the answer but your response will make both of you feel good.