Positivity · Self Improvement

The power of a compliment

Sincere, specific and personal compliments enrich social interaction and create a positive environment. It’s how we as human beings work – we thrive and radiate from positive reinforcement. A study from National Institute for Physiological Sciences found that the effect of receiving a compliment is equivalent to the effect of receiving cash. The social reward enables us to perform better as we as human beings strive to do what can potentially bring praise from others or is seen as accepted behavior.

At this moment, I’m sure there are a few compliments which you remember from years back that are instilled in your mind. Those compliments are most likely unique, personal and heartfelt. They made you feel more confident, propelled you to be better and amplified positivity. I remember a few where a compliment absolutely improved my entire body posture, provided me energy and made me feel vulnerable (the good kind!) because they recognized a quality so personal.

When I was in college I was taking a Native American Studies class and a mandatory read was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (highly recommend it!). We were expected to read up to a certain page number before each class and were asked questions about it along with our perspective of each of the happenings in the book. Though public speaking made me anxious, I enjoyed the book so much that I would raise my hand and voice my opinion about each chapter, each class.

One of those days after class, I was walking by myself to my an appointment. A male classmate biked his way to me and stopped and asked if he can say something to me. I was a little reluctant as he had never said anything to me in class but I nodded anyway. He proceeded to tell me something I’ve never heard before. He said, “You carry yourself really well. How you present yourself in class and the way you speak so eloquently is something I really admire about you.” I was so thrown off by the compliment because it gave me mixed emotions. One side, the compliment touched my heart because it was so genuine, specific (and it pointed out a quality I was insecure about) and illustrated his attention to my actions. On the other side, as much as I appreciated the compliment, I waited for a follow up – something like a “can I get your number?” statement of some sort. But, instead, he said “have a good day!” and biked away to his next class.

I pondered about this incident for a long time. There were three lessons I learned from this:

Effective compliments are genuine and specific. The fact that this classmate expressed in detail the qualities he admired about me made the compliment all the more warm and sincere. I stood there listening to this boy whom I’ve never spoken to before acknowledge a trait he liked about me with such sincerity. He made me more confident about a quality I was originally insecure about and I am extremely thankful for that. He changed my entire energy that day and even after years, here I am smiling about that compliment.

Compliments can be mistaken for flirting. After this classmate complimented me and I responded with a thank you, I waited for him to follow up by asking me for my number. But, instead, he left it at that. In fact, the many times I saw him in class after that, we simply exchanged pleasantries and went on with our day. There was no follow up and I was so grateful. This is one of the main reasons I remember this particular compliment so clearly – there was no hidden agenda! Sometimes compliments are mistaken for flirting and we doubt the validity of the compliment. Do they really mean that? Or are they just saying that to flatter me and why? What do they want in return? When someone is kind to us, instead of receiving it with an open mind, we doubt their intentions because of past experiences; however, this creates doubt about even the most genuine people. And ultimately, that makes us reluctant to compliment others in case it gets misconstrued as flirting. Instead, we must alter that thinking altogether and give and receive compliments freely. The more open we are at giving and receiving compliments, the more natural it will become.

Compliment often. Compliments are powerful. One kind, genuine statement can create tremendous positive energy and ultimately, a positive environment. As much as we like to receive compliments, we should be giving them too. Think about it as gift-giving. Don’t you get excited to buy something you know your loved one will appreciate and see their expression and demeanor change entirely due to your personal and well-thought-out gift? That feeling of satisfaction and gratification creates an overall positive atmosphere that the person giving and receiving both benefits from. This goes hand-in-hand with giving and receiving compliments.

We often focus on stating what’s wrong that we miss out on what’s right. Compliments radiate positivity. It influences someone to be better, perform better and in parallel, enhances social interaction because it creates a personal and positive light between people. I highly recommend that the next time you are awed by someone’s good work, etiquette, fashion sense or anything, really, express it genuinely with no expectations in return. Because that one compliment can make someone’s entire confidence level increase, better their day and reinforce positive behavior. Once you start complimenting with no other agenda, others will become more open to receiving and trusting compliments and ultimately, giving them back, too! It’s a beautiful cycle.

Remember, compliments are limitless and free of cost. They are the easiest, yet the most powerful form of kindness and positive influence. So I suggest that from now on, make an effort to compliment people on a daily basis – it might just make their day and yours!

The power of a compliment


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4 thoughts on “The power of a compliment

  1. The difference between true compliment and flirting is right there in your post – genuine, detailed, specific, caused by certain action of yours. Flirting is often compliments for no reason, compliments that are generic, etc. There is however a place for genuine compliments in flirting as well. Flirting is not a bad thing if done with honest intentions and with such genuine impression on one’s mind that you could not help notice, compliment them.

    1. Dear SomeReader,

      Agreed – flirting is not a bad thing if done with honest intentions. People often confuse the two (complimenting/flirting) which restricts some from complimenting. Thanks for the insight! 🙂


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