The Art Of Giving A Compliment

What does giving a good compliment mean? Is there a wrong way to give and receive compliments? Find out the meaning of good and bad compliments.

“You’ve worked hard during the short semester. Kudos to you!”

“I admire your courage to speak up!”

“You look amazing today!”

Doesn’t it feel nice to be complimented? 

Did you know that World Compliment Day is celebrated every 1 March? But why does it warrant a day though? Well, complimenting others is a social skill. It makes the receivers feel appreciated and valued, sort of like a little confidence boost even — making others feel good about themselves. That’s a good enough reason besides its origin! Compliments act as encouragement, like when you tell artists you like their art piece, it motivates them to make even more. And just like everything else, there’s a right and wrong way to give and receive compliments. And today, we’re gonna learn a little bit of both!

Did you know: The word compliment is derived from the Latin, complere, meaning to fill up? Also, in the early 2000s, Hans Poortvliet of the Netherlands, initiated this day in his country to get everyone to compliment 3 people in their life. With this, he hopes to get everyone from each town, city, and country on the globe to do it and eventually made March 1 the  ‘The Most Positive Day in The World’.

#1. Complimenting Others


Compliments make us feel good, it doesn't matter whether we’re the one giving or receiving. Studies have found that it actually lights up the same parts of your brain that get activated like when you get paid a monetary award. Just as we learned that complimenting a child’s behaviour will encourage good behaviour, when you compliment someone’s smile, it most likely results with them smiling when they see you again. Isn’t that nice? But, compliments can also go beyond the surface. Besides just complimenting someone for their looks, if someone’s personality makes you feel good about yourself, you can say “Hey, I really like your vibrant personality, you never fail to make me smile.” Trust me, that’d make their day. 

So how does it benefit the complimenter? Some of us may feel anxious, fearing that our compliments may be denied and brushed off. Yeah, giving compliments takes guts! But being the giver makes you feel good about yourself too, like donating to charity. You’re spreading warmth and love — at no cost! It’s also proven that giving compliments generally improves our mood. 

But it’s also important to know how to give good compliments, as you don’t want to end up offending someone either. Your compliments should be genuine. Why say something if you don’t mean it, right? People can also sense if you’re not being honest and may result in distrust. Next, pay attention and be specific. This shows that you were really present at the moment and genuinely appreciated the other person. During Chinese New Year, someone said to me, “I like your hair colour! It really goes well with the dress you’re wearing, pretty!” and I genuinely appreciated that till now. If you’re constantly giving compliments, you’re surelier to notice the bright side of things more often! 

Here are some good compliments that are sure to cheer someone up: 

  1. Your laughter’s contagious.

  2. You light up the room with your presence.

  3. Your style is a breath of fresh air. 

  4. Wow, you’re such a thoughtful person. Thank you. 

  5. I wish more people were to think like you. 

  6. You’re an excellent problem solver.

  7. I’m very proud of you, as should you of yourself. 

  8. Thank you for being such a gem.

#2. Backhanded Compliments


Merriam-Webster defines backhanded compliment as ‘a compliment that implies it’s not really a compliment at all’. A little confusing, so let’s just get into what a backhanded compliment sounds like. Words such as ‘didn’t expect’ or ‘surprisingly’ shouldn’t be in a compliment as these words usually hints that you didn’t expect them to perform and may imply that you were undermining the person before that. And remember when I said you can compliment someone’s smile? Well, don’t do this:

“You should smile more, you look so much prettier with a smile.”

That could suggest that the person don’t look as good without a smile. And certainly someone isn’t inclined to smile more if they don’t feel like it.  Instead, a simple “I like your smile, it’s pretty.” would be way better. 

Here are some ‘compliments’ you should never say:

  1. You look amazing for your age.

  2. Your hair is beautiful. Is it real?

  3. You're so brave to wear that.

  4. You look great. Have you lost weight?

Basically anything that could have a double meaning or suggests that someone wasn’t in their best state previously.


#3. Accepting and Deflecting Compliments


Besides learning to give proper compliments, the way you accept and return compliments is equally important. If we don’t want others to deny our compliments, we shouldn’t do it too! Deflecting compliments can sometimes invalidate other people’s feelings, making them feel bad for bringing it up. Thus, creating social awkwardness.

The best way to avoid this is to receive them gracefully, a simple ‘thank you’ would be great as well. Compliments are from givers, they’re sharing their perspective with you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done something thousands of times, it may be the giver’s first, hence their excitement and compliment. Some of us may feel embarrassed and cringe, but learn to accept them with your heart. Once you receive a compliment, you’re more inclined to compliment someone else. Some other ways to appreciate compliments is to return the favour, easy peasy!

More than often, women will discount compliments due to insecurities, but habitually rejecting compliments lowers your self-esteem even more! But there’s an interesting argument behind these rejections that have no relations to confidence. Some women say these rejections are to avoid giving the wrong signals, especially if they’re coming from a guy. What do you think?


To wrap things up, remember, genuine compliments always work the best. Have you complimented someone around you yet? Start with your best friend or family member, tell them how much you appreciate them. Happy World Compliment Day!

Denise Chang is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Mass Communication Degree at Taylor's University. She is also the Secretary of Taylor’s AKPK Club and Events & Logistics Manager of Taylor’s Nature Club.

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