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The Right Way to Pay Someone a Compliment

Paying compliments is an important way to make others feel valued at work and let them know they're doing a good job. But there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. The wrong way is to compliment someone in a way that sounds as if you are flattering them, ingratiating yourself, or simply practising that motivation technique you learnt at the last management seminar. When such compliments don't chime with what people know to be true themselves, they invariably see through such compliments and dismiss them as meaningless. They also learn not to believe you again.

If you want a compliment to be well-received, you first need to be certain of 3 things:

1. you do genuinely mean what you say. No faking. No pretending. No sucking up for what you can get back for yourself.

2. your compliment doesn't embarrass the person on the receiving end.

3. you focus on the effect of someone's behaviour rather than on the behaviour itself.

Here's an anecdote that shows what we mean.

Two Compliments: Which Mattered Most?

In "Business as a Game", Albert Carr relates the story of a speech given by a chief executive. The man was not an accomplished speaker and knew it. Nevertheless, shortly after he had sat down, he was approached by one of his department managers. "Mr Rossen, that was a terrific speech. A great performance. Churchill couldn't have done better!"

The chief replied amiably: "Thank you, Larry. Glad you liked it."

A few days later, another manager came up to the chief during lunch and said: "Mr Rossen, I've been thinking about what you said the other night. It's got me thinking about some changes we could make in our department. Would you mind if I sent you my thoughts?"

"Not at all, Bill," said the chief. "I'm glad the speech got you thinking."

It's not difficult to work out which compliment mattered most.

How To Light Up Someone's Day

All of us love compliments. Few of us love flattery. If you can deliver a compliment in a way that is honest, sincere, and focuses on the effect people have on others, then you will make people feel good, open them up and light up their day.