How to give and take a really great compliment

When I was in third grade, my teacher taught me that we had to use meaningful adjectives, and certain words were no longer allowed. Generic, vague words like nice, good, and fun were no removed from our lexicon. We had to find words that were more descriptive and rich.

I’d like to invite you to consider that you might want to try giving compliments in this way. Try to avoid the basic platitudes you might give the important people in your life. Don’t tell them they’re a good friend, or a helpful spouse(though that’s not bad), tell them how their specific actions make you feel. You can use the format “when you____________,” I feel _____________.“

Here are some examples: "when you give me a hug, I feel safe and protected,” or “the way you listen to me makes me feel like you really care about me,” or “when I think about how hard you work to take care of our family, it makes me feel grateful.”

We all hunger to be noticed and appreciated, and these types of compliments show that you’ve really paid attention to them, and that you value their specific gifts.

Accepting a compliment can also be challenging for some people. When someone says something kind, we might be tempted to deflect it (“No, you’re the pretty one”) deny it (“I’m not really smart, I just got lucky”) or try to minimize it (”oh it’s no big deal"). Let me make this formula very straightforward. Your only job is to appreciate that they said something kind to you. You don’t have to agree or endorse their opinions, just be appreciative that they thought something nice about you and then cared enough to tell you so.  And don’t be tempted to share the compliment either (“I feel the same way about you!” Or “you’re a really caring friend also!”). 

So you can say “thank you,” or “I appreciate it,” or anything else simple like that, but no more. If you’d like to return the compliment, say your thank you, pause, and then come up with a compliment of your own. It will likely be at least a little different, and will be received with so much more warmth and appreciation than if you just piggyback onto their compliment with a “you too!”

It can be really fun to figure out what you like best about the important people in your life, and it can definitely lead to a positively cascading effect, where you share your appreciation, which may lead the other person to share theirs, and everyone starts to feel more appreciated, which leads to more expressed gratitude and generalized good feeling It also feels so much better to focus on what gives you pleasure than what disappoints you.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.