Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Compliments to the Chef…and Anyone Else January 31, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:26 pm


You look fabulous!


Your presentation was amazing!


I couldn’t have done it without you!


You’re the best!


Don’t we all love hearing any and all of the above? We love being praised, appreciated, needed, and complimented, so in honor of this past week’s National Compliment Day (I love these things!) we’re talking all things accolades today.


I hate receiving compliments. Said no one ever.


Oddly enough, as much as we love feeling the love, many of us aren’t good recipients of compliments. Raise your hand if when someone tells you “I love those shoes,” your reply is something along the lines of “they’re so old” or “I got them on sale.” A gracious, “thank you so much” is the perfect reply so why do we often feel like we have to justify…or nullify…a compliment?



We live in a very critical time surrounded by a society of online strangers and anonymous insults, so you’d think it’d be the other way around…that we’d praise someone right back for praising us. Not only does discounting a compliment suck positivity out of praise, it also deflates the donor of that praise, maybe make them feel dumb for even thinking of complimenting something you so obviously seem is unworthy of praise, invalidate their judgement, and at the very least, create a moment of social awkwardness.



The art of complimenting is indeed tricky. Knowing how to give one…and how to receive one…are both skills everyone needs to know. When you compliment someone, be sure it’s for their benefit and not just a way of manipulating them, which takes us into the world of flattery, defined as excessive or insincere praise. Don’t be fake; be sincere. Anything faux or misguided is painfully transparent. Make sure those words of affirmation are from the heart and void of any ulterior motives.



Complimenting someone means you’ve been paying attention, which is maybe why they are often hard for me to acknowledge properly. I don’t like attention and even though one of my dominant Love Languages is “Words of Affirmation,” I prefer hearing them somewhat privately and certainly not so everyone else can take note and spotlight me. Taking notice of someone’s praise-worthy acts or qualities is also somewhat of an art form. Awareness and being observant don’t come naturally to everyone but if you want to up your compliments game, up your listening and watching skills too.



Ironically, even though being complimented can be socially awkward at times, it’s a well-known fact that complimenting someone in public goes a long way. I remember learning this years ago as it pertains to spouses. It’s always a good idea to compliment your spouse in a crowd. Don’t go overboard and to the point that it makes him or her uncomfortable, but praise away. On the flip-side, make it a habit to praise and compliment people behind their backs too. Yep, behind their backs. When you compliment someone who’s not present, the compliment can feel even more genuine.



Giving someone a shout-out is a win-win, as research shows both the giver and the receiver get an emotional boost and the energy resulting from a simple “thanks for being a great friend” is undeniably positive. We all have our doubts and insecurities and might wonder if anyone really notices us and our good works. Someone on the receiving end of praise is more than likely strive to do more of what got them that praise, whether it be practicing more or working hard. Simply put, compliments amplify positivity and are very powerful gifts.


With all the bickering out there, the sure way to end an argument or heated discussion is to compliment the person on the opposite end of the argument. You of course don’t need to agree with what they’re saying, but telling them “I admire your passion for this issue” or “Sounds like you’ve done some research” can put a much-needed halt to any negativity. The same holds true when you’re trapped in a conversation of gossip that may be making you uncomfortable.


If all this makes it sound like the simple and thoughtful act of giving a compliment is somewhat of an art form, it’s cuz it is. It’s also an important social skill and an essential part of social life and etiquette. As I mentioned earlier, always praise someone sincerely and also be specific in that praise. A somewhat vague “you cut your hair” may have the intent of “I love your new haircut” but may also leave the person wondering what you really mean. Be precise with your praise.



Woman’s Day

Gretchen Rubin of “The Happiness Project” makes no bones about it that being on the receiving end of a compliment makes anyone happy, but she also says to think outside of the praise box and maybe compliment someone on the less obvious. For instance, instead of complimenting your hair stylist on how great she does your hair, praise her for her hard work, gorgeous smile, or even her successful parenting skills. Think about what someone does but probably rarely gets recognized for. That grocery store clerk may work hard and do a great job during these trying times, but if he has amazing eyes or is super friendly, let him know as you swipe your card. This can be especially true for kids. If Leo won first place, tell him you’re proud of that but that you’re even more proud of how hard he worked to get there. Praise the process, not the outcome.


Lastly, let’s take care of a little grammar and spelling. I often see “compliment” and “complement” used incorrectly and it drives this wordsmith nuts. Both words are derived from the Latin word “complere,” which means “to complete” but they are not interchangeable. “Complement” refers to something that completes something else while “compliment” means to remark in the form of admiration, esteem, or approval.  A tip to remember which is which? Look at the spelling, as “complement” has an “e” after the “l” just like “complete” does, while “compliment” has an “i” after the “l.”


Compliments make the world a better place and there you have it, the complete world of compliments. I enjoyed researching this topic and I admire you for reading about it. You’re the best!


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