Etiquette 101: The Art of Paying a Compliment


“I can live two months on a good compliment.”- Mark Twain

IIn a 2008 study in the journal Neuron, giving someone a compliment activates the same reward center in the brain as paying the person with cash.  A 1998 study from Columbia University found children stayed motivated and were more open to trying new things when they were given compliments for their hard work  instead of criticism. One of the kindest demonstrations of good manners is the ability to pay someone a compliment.

I agree with Mark Twain a good compliment  is a form of nourishment for the heart and soul and can stretch further than two months.  A teachers praise of my writing in the 6th grade inspired my love for writing  today decades later. Oprah mentioned how a teacher in school inspired her to do better and help her to not become as statistic. A woman who attended Joel Osteen’s church shared that at a time when she was at a very low point in her life, she had a brief encounter with Joel’s wife, Victoria. Victoria said to her “you are so beautiful!” as she passed her in church. She said that compliment gave her strength in the days  that followed.

I want to encourage you to never pass up an opportunity to give a compliment. If you see something about a person you appreciate, do not hesitate to say so, you might uplift their spirit.There was a young woman in an outlet store I was shopping in who, had fabulous hair. When I complimented her on her hair, she was taken completely off guard  but I could tell it made her day. If I get great service at a store, restaurant or over the phone, I try to make it a point to tell their manager or supervisor about the great service I received from that particular employee. Lord knows they probably get an earful about poorly performing service people on a regular basis.

When it comes to receiving compliments there is only one rule, just say thank you and smile. If someone compliments your outfit don’t start talking about you got it on sale, at Target, etc. it is an indirect way of rejecting the compliment because it makes you uncomfortable to receive, just say thank you.

When it comes to paying compliments, there are 5 points to remember:

1. Keep it simple
2. Be Sincere
3. It should be honest, truthful and personal
4. Mean it
5. Avoid back handed “compliments”, Saying things like “you are pretty for a brown skinned woman”, “You have such a pretty face,if you only lost weight”, “Wow I did not know you were so smart,” or something to that effect, it is not a compliment, it is an insult so please avoid using that type of phrasing at all costs.

There are three of many reasons you want to pay a compliment:

1. It will encourage the person receiving it
2. It will make you altruistic
3. It speaks volumes about your character

Paying a compliment should be simple based on something you find pleasing about the person. However, if you find you are at a loss on how to compliment someone, here are a few suggestions:

1. I have learned so much from you
2.You inspire me
3. Your contribution is appreciated
4.Your opinion is important to me

Remember, paying a compliment is  a form of currency that everyone can afford and it makes everyone rich, both the giver and the recipient.