Dear Dr. Yael,
I admire my mother who is very complimentary. She has no problem complimenting strangers. Sometimes it is embarrassing to me. Everyone loves my mother. I am also complimentary, and I thank people wherever I go. Although I love my mother, I would like to learn the art of complimenting other people in a more appropriate manner.
Compliments are one of the most amazing parts of being social. Compliments have the power to create a lot of positive energy and can make things happen almost like magic. Compliments also create a positive atmosphere and make people like each other more. In order to be a complimentary person, you need to become aware of positive things that are all around us. This has a two-fold benefit. Becoming more aware of the positive around us makes us into happier, calmer, and more positive people. It also is a way to train our cognition to focus on positive things, which makes the world around us a more positive place. Focusing on gratitude makes others feel valued. Taking the next step and giving others positive feedback can actually mitigate stress in their lives! Speaking about all of this positive, in the form of compliments, makes others feel good about themselves and helps them feel positive and happy. People also strive to do the things they are praised for, so giving compliments also helps motivate people to accomplish positive things.
Compliments are gifts of love, but they only work if they are sincere and are given freely, without coercion. If a compliment is not genuine, it can undermine a relationship as it makes the other person feel suspicious instead of cherished. Compliments are only embarrassing if they are overdone or fake. The art of complimenting is to be sincere and genuine. Compliments should be parallel to what was done. So if it was a regular positive thing, giving gushing compliments can be embarrassing, but a sincere and genuine compliment can be appreciated greatly. Your mother sounds like a wonderful person. Most children find their parents embarrassing at times, so this is not a good barometer as to how your mother actually is socially. Nevertheless, perhaps your mother overdid her compliments at times or gave compliments that felt over the top sometimes. Finding that happy medium will help keep the positivity in the air without any feelings of faux flattery.
Besides the need to be genuine, compliments also work better when they are specific. Complimenting someone on how they handled something or presented something in a specific way will go a lot farther than “that was great.” It is also important to be able to receive compliments. If someone can’t receive a compliment, it sucks all of the positivity out of the air and makes the situation feel awkward. We need to be genuine about receiving compliments as well and even if we don’t feel great about ourselves, accepting a compliment graciously is the only way to go. If we take a step back from our negative subjective view, and inhale the positive atmosphere of the compliment given, we may actually be able to transform our feelings as well! Thank you for highlighting this important value.
Hatzlacha in perfecting the art of complimenting, and may we all learn to make this world a more positive place and focus on all of the good around us!