The power of the compliment
Mark Twain once said, “I can live two months on one good compliment.” Recall the last time a sincere compliment made your spirits soar — it felt good, didn’t it? Compliments affirm our hard work or positive characteristics. They encourage us to continue whatever good we were doing that earned us a compliment. When they are specific and sincere, they have lasting powerful effects.
A little happiness for you, a little happiness for me
Spreading happiness in someone else’s world actually increases your own happiness. In one study, half of the participants were asked to recall the last time they spent money on someone else; the other half was to think about the last time they spent money on themselves. Those who had recalled spending money on others, regardless of how much they spent, felt happier. (1)
Another study had subjects count acts of kindness they performed during the week. Researchers found that the more acts of kindness, the happier and more grateful participants reported themselves to be. (2) As you throw around a little sunshine, you can’t help but bask in it yourself!
Sincere compliments are powerful, but insincere compliments are just hollow. Ever had a well-meaning friend tell you you did great on the presentation you just bombed? Or told you your hair looked great when you knew for a fact that it looked like a wet haystack? If you are anything like me, you gave them a sideways glance that said, “Um, no it doesn’t,” and moved on with your day. Just like dogs can “smell” fear (or thus said my parents in a moment of bizarre and contradictory counsel that spiked my anxiety about dogs tenfold), people can smell an insincere compliment a mile away.
If you want to give powerful compliments that make a difference in a person’s day, “You look nice today,” is not going to cut it. Dig a little deeper and find something you truly admire. Try something like,“I admire your attention to detail in boardroom presentations.” Your friend will reflect with pleasure on a compliment like that for the rest of the day.
A sampling of some powerful compliments if you’re stumped
- “Your patience with your children inspires me.”
- “I love the way you really listen when people talk.”
- “You have a gift for negotiation.”
- “I admire your dedication to eating healthily.”
- “I was touched by your kindness to our friend when she was unhappy yesterday.”
Today, pay a specific, sincere, and powerful compliment to a friend or family member.
More on kindness increasing happiness:
Read here about acts of kindness increasing Tweens’ acceptance among peers:
Interesting video on how compliments brought about improved performance:
- Aknin L, Dunn E, Norton M. Happiness runs in a circular motion: evidence for a positive feedback loop between prosocial spending and happiness. J Happiness Stud. 2012 Apr 13(2):347-355.
- Otake K, Shimai S, Tanaka-Matsumi J, Otsui K, Fredrickson B. Happy people become happier through kindness: a counting kindnesses intervention. J Happiness Stud. 2006 Sep; 7(3):361-375.