March 1 is National Compliments Day. A good reason to wonder about the power of compliments. Because that power is staggering! The more compliments you receive, the better you feel. And… the better your results. But giving good compliments is not that easy. Neither is receiving them. Luckily both skills are simple to improve.

Why compliments matter that much? They help you to achieve flow, the optimal mental state, in which you can excel.

mmediate colleagues

As shown in the graph above (from the presentation that Gaby Remmers of Blauw Research and I presented at Marketing Insights Event 2015 (MIE15)), not only is flow achieved through receiving a compliment. Also praising others helps you get into this mental state.

Giving and receiving, an art

It’s important to master the art of giving and receiving compliments. Giving compliments with the desired effect turns out to not be that easy. Often your thumbs up for the other person says more about you than about the one on the receiving end. People tend to mostly notice things they find important, and things they would like to be complimented on themselves. Often they don’t check if the compliment has as much meaning for the receiver. Even though compliments have their maximum value when awarded for something that required real effort. Something that turned out well after persistent creativity. How to know what those things are for the one you wish to compliment? How about you ask them?

Properly receiving compliments too is not as simple as it seems. How often do people dismiss well intended praise with something like: ‘Ah well, it’s nothing really.’ or: ‘It was on sale.’? As this video shows when you and the other person let a compliment sink and you are aware of its impact, the effect is remarkable.

Rooted in fear

Having trouble receiving compliments often comes from fear, says the psychologist, researcher and author of the book Self Compassion,stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind Kristin Neff. Fear of raising expectation and then disappointing others and yourself. Fear of muting your inner critic, that you grown accustomed to to the extend it has grown into an important part of your comfort zone. And fear of people (rightly so) calling you vain.

Do you want to raise your level of self-compassion? Read Are you friendly enough for yourself?

Hands on

Do you want to become better at dealing with compiments? Grow the habit of handing out at least three sincere compliments every day. That will not only brighten the receivers days, but yours as well. In the beginning it may be somewhat uncomfortable, but you will see yourself loosening up and that it brings you, your collegues and the other people around you lots of positive energy. You think reaching that number is hard? The more reason to make it a daily ritual. Just do it. You will find that when the good stuff happens, it becomes harder to leave it at just three (which of course is not a limit: the more the better).

Tips for good compliments:

  • Compliment in as concrete terms as possible. Don’t leave it at: ‘Well done!’, but explain what it is that was so great.
  • Focus your compliment more on the effort somebody put in than on the result(s) achieved. That way you also help people overcome fear of failure and helpt them develop despite, better yet: because of, the failures.
  • Compliment on the things people themselves take pride in. That way the likelihood of success for your praise is maximised. Make sure to ask people what that is.
  • Compliment with a question for a change. E.g. ‘Great! How did you make that happen??’. This helps the both of you to reflect on the achievement as well as the process.
  • Alternatively you could go for a non-verbal compliment: a pat on the back, a thumbs up or an appropriate wink.
Another tip: be careful with complimenting someones appearance. This could raise the wrong impression that potentially ruins your relationship, especially in a professional setting.

More tips on how to better deal with compliments? Request our ebook Energy to Excelerate. This is temporarily available free of charge.