Compliments are powerful. Both the giver and the receiver are benefited when compliments are the currency.
The nature of a compliment is such that before the exchange takes place, the praiseworthy object, situation, or effort first has to be noticed. A compliment is the subsequent acknowledgment that this awareness took place. As such, receivers benefit in that they learn that we notice and value them, and givers benefit in feeling good about making others feel good, in a similar manner to giving a gift. What’s more though is that compliments enhance the atmosphere of positivity and receptivity, and foster the flow of conversation.
Translating this to the workplace, compliments can be a powerful tool in motivating continued efforts. Studies show that the same area of the brain, the striatum, is activated when a person is rewarded either a compliment or cash. This means that compliments can improve performance in a similar way to receiving a cash reward, and we all know that behaviour which gets rewarded gets repeated.
There is a big BUT here. But it’s important to keep in mind that compliments can completely backfire if they are not genuine. Humans are very perceptive and are highly sensitive to traces of insincerity. Compliments only have the magic effect if they are sincere reflections of what we think and if they are given freely and not coerced. So keep those compliments genuine!
Finally, just as important as knowing how to give compliments is knowing how to receive them. There is only one way to receive a compliment: graciously, with a smile. Don’t fall into the trap of automatically discounting or denying compliments. This type of response instantly invalidates the giver’s judgement and might make them feel stupid for noticing and commenting on something so unworthy of praise. And at the very least, it creates social awkwardness.
So this week our challenge to you is to give compliments generously and receive them graciously! Notice how it improves your week.