Note: This is a guest post from Chris Birk of Write Short Live Long
Carefully chosen words are among the most disposable items in today’s throwaway society.
That’s helped to make compliments ”” real, meaningful words of praise ”” an increasingly elusive treasure. The reality is that the art of giving meaningful compliments has become a dying one.
Part of it is political correctness. Part of it lies in the faceless, informal ways we’re connected to one another through technology.
It’s not that we’ve become cold and unfeeling. Most of us do issue compliments ”” to co-workers, loved ones and even sometimes strangers. But they tend to ring hollow, failing to truly connect with and touch the recipient.
And most of us want to give meaningful compliments that leave an impression. Often it’s simply a matter of simplicity and intent. We rush our words or worse ”” rehearse them ”” instead of allowing the compliment to organically emerge.
To help revive this dying art, here are five ways to help you give meaningful compliments:
1. Be Specific
Detail is the lifeblood of good writing. It’s also the heart of a great compliment. Hone in on a specific achievement or aspect and focus your words on that. A vague, generalized comment that can be recycled throughout the day ”” “You have beautiful eyes” or “Great presentation to the board” ”” lacks real meaning because of its cookie-cutter nature.
That man or woman gets a flimsy compliment about their eyes a few times a week. Instead, seize on a sliver that indicates you paid attention or that the recipient’s presence or actions have made a meaningful impact on you. It’s not just that she gave a great presentation ”” it’s that this particular moment proved so captivating.
Specific compliments have lasting power. So do those that favor character over objects or outward appearance. They indicate that you’ve truly taken stock of a person and their attributes and, in turn, compressed those thoughts into a value judgment.
2. Be Genuine
Meaning what you say is, well, inherent to a meaningful compliment. With a little skill you can make a platitude seem specific enough to mollify the recipient. Despite your knack for false sincerity, most people can tell when your words aren’t genuine. That’s why you shouldn’t force a compliment because it somehow seems like the time or place to offer one.
Sincerity is a byproduct of genuine belief or emotion. To toss up a compliment because of social convention or circumstance is to speak without real meaning. Writing about the art of compliments for Esquire magazine, Tom Chiarella summed it up perfectly: “If a worthwhile compliment needs anything, it is the weight of realization behind it.”
3. Be Patient
Giving the perfect compliment is also about waiting for the perfect moment. One thing you should avoid is trying to manufacture that moment ”” that’s inherently selfish and makes the giving more about you than the recipient. Flattery and puffery are impatient and have the giver’s best interests at heart. At the same time, waiting too long can mean the compliment loses its timeliness. Strive to strike a balance, focusing on the needs and timing of the recipient.
4. Be Succinct
It’s easy to start rambling when you say something nice about someone. Don’t linger around looking for a “thank you” or feel the need to repeat yourself or venture beyond the confines of the compliment. This is especially true if you’re moved to compliment a stranger. Breeze in, offer your heartfelt words and jump right back into life ongoing.
5. Be Yourself
You don’t need to assume some new persona to start dishing out compliments to co-workers and folks off the street. Possessing a degree of self-confidence is key to delivering meaningful compliments. Learning how to give these types of compliments will also make you a better ”” and more appreciative ”” recipient when the time comes to receive them.
Chris Birk works with GrowthPartner.com, a unique firm that provides angel investment and online marketing expertise to emerging companies. A former newspaper and magazine writer, he teaches journalism and media writing at a private Midwestern university. His personal blog, Write Short Live Long, will be launching soon.
Photo by Jerry