It is said that a compliment is a gift, not to be thrown away carelessly, unless you want to hurt the giver. And I could not agree more.
There is nothing worse than paying a compliment and the recipient narrows their eyes and looks at you suspiciously or simply starts to disagree with you, and even sometimes gets angry with you. Worse still is when someone goes bright red with embarrassment as if to say, “You can’t honestly mean that?”
So when paying a genuine, and by genuine I mean honest and sincere, compliment, it is a gift because it’s a chance to make someone feel good about themselves, and that is something that should be thanked. I’m no shrink but I gather that if you are nice to people they tend to be nice back.
So my number one rule is only give a genuine compliment, otherwise you are simply going to embarrass someone, which is worse than paying no compliment at all. And look them straight in the eye when you do it – if not, you might as well text them the compliment!
It’s always nice to receive a compliment but also tempting to dismiss them easily.
Someone compliments my hair and I say, “Oh I washed it…for once!” Someone compliments my outfit, “What? This old thing?” But if someone told me I did a good business deal, I would look them straight in the eye, shake their hand and simply say, “Thank you – that’s very kind of you to say.” You see, it’s a confidence thing. I’m not sure my hair ever looks good, and I’m never keen on my outfit. When people tell me I always look smart and well dressed, I’m constantly amazed! Grateful, but amazed all the same.
But I realise that not accepting a genuine compliment is just plain rude. And when someone tells you, “You look nice,” and you respond by saying, “And you too,” when they have the flu and are wearing their PJs, it underestimates the value of the compliment they have given you.
I also deal with fake compliments swiftly. I remember a manager’s wife once looking at me up and down when I was only in my twenties and saying to me, “One day you’ll be able to afford a £1,000 suit, like mine.” “£1,000?” I replied. “So cheap…you must have got it in the sale?”
So, now my rule is, when someone pays me a compliment, I use just two words. Thank you. And I smile. I accept it with grace and warmth. As it’s so easy to underestimate the power of a genuine compliment, a touch of the hand, a smile, and a thank you – these are all acts of caring and they are more powerful than you can imagine.