workplace compliments take practice and forethought

National Compliment Day is all about sharing our appreciations, big and small. (via crimsong19, Flickr)

When was the last time you complimented someone at work or received a workplace compliment? (A real compliment: a piece of thoughtful, specific praise, not a simple “thanks” or “good job.”)

If it’s been a while, you’re not alone. Giving memorable compliments is a skill.

It also requires slowing down long enough to reflect on why you value someone else. With time at a premium and “busy-ness” the norm these days, compliments often get forgotten or neglected.

Now’s your chance to change that, and even if you’re already an awesome compliment-giver, to spread the joy of compliments even more!

National Compliment Day is Jan. 24.  What better time to improve your praise-giving skills? Read on to find out why compliments matter so much and how you can make them better.

The Power of Workplace Compliments


[Tweet “”I can live for two months on a good compliment.” — Mark Twain”]

The best compliments stick with you for years. You probably remember the words of praise that led you to go into your line of work, or to pursue your favorite hobby more seriously, or to make a major change in your life.

Even small compliments can make us feel like a million bucks. That isn’t just a turn of phrase — a Japanese study found that compliments activate the same part of the brain activated by a gift of cash — literally making praise a form of emotional currency.

Compliments are also a powerful way to improve performance, the same study found. Participants who received a compliment while learning a simple task — pushing buttons in a given pattern as fast as possible — performed better than those who were not complimented.

Forbes’ David DiSalvo explains:

Researchers theorize that complimenting someone’s efforts acts as a catalyst for better “skill consolidation” during sleep. […] From this and previous studies, it seems as though praise provides the right memory boost for the brain to more efficiently consolidate learning while we’re snoozing. Receiving a cash incentive appears to trigger the same effect.

The practical implications of this are clear, DiSalvo says. Employees who receive compliments while learning a new skill are likely to come back the next day with surprising improvements.

How To Give Better Compliments

It’s often difficult to find the right words to compliment someone, especially in a workplace setting. Ill-conceived compliments can be interpreted as too personal or make some feel coddled and others self-conscious.
Follow these tips to give better workplace compliments:
1. Ask yourself how and why before you open your mouth. You’ll land on a better, more specific compliment this way. Why did the employee give the best presentation? How exactly did the employee’s performance make this month’s sales so outstanding?
2. Don’t fake it. Insincerity will show. Be authentic and give the compliment that you really believe, not the one you think you “should” give.
3. Acknowledge the person’s efforts beyond their skills. What did it take for them to perform so well? Did they overcome obstacles or fears?
4. Describe how the person affected youGiving compliments is not about you, but people love to hear how their efforts affect others. Did the person do something to make you change your behavior? Is his or her attitude an inspiration?
5. Don’t forget to use words of appreciation. Bring it home with a “thank you” or other phrase that emphasizes your gratitude to the person for being who they are and for doing what they do.
The best way to give better compliments is to practice. Start practicing today, because you can take your celebration of appreciation global in a few months: World Compliment Day is coming up March 1!
For comprehensive guide to building a workplace culture of happiness and appreciation, download our FREE eBook: Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.
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