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Make 2013 better for everyone: The why, when and how of giving compliments

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Too often we think nice things about other people without giving voice to our approval, whether out of shyness or fear of being misunderstood, but a well-timed compliment can make an enormous difference in another’s person’s day, if not their life.

If one of your resolutions for the New Year is to make the world a better place, but joining up with the Peace Corps is out of the question, simply focusing on giving more compliments is a great way to go, and Brett and Kate McKay at The Art of Manliness have the perfect instructional guide to how it’s done.

As Frederick Henry Lynch said in his 1903 book The Enlargement of Life:

“Idle words are characterless and die upon utterance. Evil words rankle for a while, make contentions, and then die. But the hopeful, kind, cheering word sinks into a man’s heart and goes on bearing fruit forever…”

Though your pockets may be empty, that’s no reason not to let the fullness of your heart overflow.

Here’s just a small sampling of their advice:

Start paying attention. The first step of becoming a master complimenter is recognizing opportunities to offer praise. To overcome our negative and egocentric biases, we need to harness our inner Sherlock Holmes by observing more frequently and more keenly. Be fully present when interacting with others and you’ll easily find lots of things to compliment them on.

Compliment the small stuff. You don’t need to wait around for some big accomplishment to offer a compliment to somebody. If it’s something really obvious, they’ve probably been complimented on it plenty of times before. So offer your admiration for the small stuff. What may seem trivial to you might mean a lot to somebody else. Like somebody’s jacket? Let them know! Impressed with someone’s handwriting? Tell them…

Be specific. The more specific you can get the better. Specificity conveys sincerity. When you’re specific with your compliment, it shows that you’re really paying attention to the person. Moreover, if your goal is to encourage positive change in an individual, the more specific you get with your compliment, the more likely the recipient will be to continue the positive behavior. Specificity helps them identify what they’re doing right. For this reason, children who grew up with parents who gave them a lot of general praise, “You’re so smart!” or, “You’re so special!” tend to feel lost in adulthood, as they haven’t learned to hone in on their talents and abilities.

Be sincere. Compliments that are clearly insincere won’t win you any points; in fact, they’ll have the opposite effect. If a person knows you’re lying, that will erode their trust in you and de-value your future compliments.

Full story at The Art of Manliness.

Doing some good in the world.

Photo credit: Fotolia

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