How to Give a Compliment

Lean in for greater impact.Lean in for greater impact.Emily L. Foley, Allure magazine

An Interview With LisaMarie Luccioni

Luccioni is a professor of communication at the University of Cincinnati and blogs about etiquette and image for
Psychology Today.

Sincere compliments-and the ones that are remembered for years-not only make the recipient feel better, but can also strengthen relationships.

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Be specific.
General compliments have less impact than specific ones, because the recipient feels as though the words could apply to anyone. Avoid ambiguity by using descriptive words or details. For example, instead of telling a coworker she did a good job on a project, highlight exactly what impressed you, whether it was her exhaustive research or her sheer creativity.

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Make it personal.
Compliments feel more intimate when you start with "I": "I couldn't help but notice how natural you are at public speaking." Take it even further by asking, "Do you ever get butterflies?" Many people think that a compliment is a one-way street, but the best praise sparks a conversation.

Think outside the box.
Unexpected compliments can be more dynamic than standard ones. For instance, if your sister knows she's dependable after being told so for years, point out one of her other positive qualities.

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Add finishing touches.
If your body language belies your words, the person is less likely to believe you. Eye contact is a must, and leaning toward the person provides additional warmth.

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