Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Compliments All Around

The WSJ's article rules on how to properly compliment someone is pretty spot on. I like giving compliments. I like giving sincere compliments. I don't think enough people today mention the good they see and experience. In all seriousness it's part of my life philosophy (although before I typed that sentence I'm not sure I have a life philosophy.)
While I'm good at giving, I'm not so great at receiving (Ed. note: that's what she said). I'm a bad compliment receiver. The worst. I can't handle any kind of praise without pointing out a deficiency. Lately I've learned to say politely (and mostly sincerely) "thank you" when complimented. I always think specific compliments are the best and the general "you look so pretty" are a waste of breadth, (although sometimes girls do look pretty and I fall into the trap of saying it).
• Be sincere. (Enough said.)

• Be selective. Think Goldilocks: You don't want your compliment to be too big or too small. You want it to be just right.

• Be specific. Don't say: "You look pretty today." Say: "That sweater really brings out the color of your eyes."

• Show impact. Tell the person how they have positively affected you. So instead of "I like your column today, Elizabeth, try: "Your story made me run right out and compliment a stranger."

• Just say thank you. When you receive a compliment, be gracious, not self-deprecating. Take the remark for what you want it to be. And don't worry about praising the person in return. It's a compliment, not a volley.

• Praise yourself. If all else fails and no one is lavishing you with praise, do what my dad taught me to do: Pat yourself on the back.
I learned early on that in real state, as in child rearing, you need to say exactly what you mean. Calling a child "smart" or describing a house as "fabulous" leaves the child thinking the compliment is empty and a potential home buyer will think the actual house is the opposite of "fabulous". Whereas describing the house as "Victorian build with white trimming" or saying "answered all those problems without a calculator" leaves the person knowing exactly why or what they are being praised for. So compliment away, just be specific.

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