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Dos and Don'ts of Effective Compliments

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Want to make a coworker’s day? Give them a sincere compliment. A well-deserved compliment can communicate your appreciation, improve someone’s outlook, and inspire them to reach for even higher goals. And don’t stop at complimenting coworkers; compliment bosses, clients, suppliers, and others you interact with at work. Here’s what you need to know to brighten everyone’s outlook.

The best compliments go way beyond a mere “Good job!” To give the most positive complements, be:

  • Authentic. Praise an action you truly appreciate. “It meant a lot to me when you handled the COO’s travel arrangements on Thursday when I was overwhelmed with work.”
  •  Specific. Explain what about an action was noteworthy and what impact the action had. “You wrote a really effective Tweet as part of the campaign to introduce our new service. We’ve had 50 retweets in the last two hours.”
  •  Meaningful. Praise something the other person cares about. “You have the best relationships with clients. Without your help in keeping our contacts at Turner updated, we wouldn’t have closed their account this morning!”
  • Thoughtful. Give compliments when someone has helped with a task, motivated you and/or other team members, taught you a useful job skill (or helped you improve one), saved money or increased sales for your organization, or gone above and beyond expectations, to name just a few.
  • Timely. Offer a compliment soon after a positive action has occurred. If you wait too long, your compliment will seem contrived and fall flat.
  • Consistent. Compliment others as often as is comfortable—perhaps once a week.

All that being said, when complimenting others, here are things you definitely don’t want to do. Don’t:

  • Give false compliments. Do that, and you’ll be seen as an insincere brown-nose. People can always tell when someone is faking it.
  • Qualify a compliment: “You wrote a terrific memo, for a person who has trouble with grammar.” A qualifier will instantly turn your compliment into an insult. 
  • Compliment someone’s appearance or lifestyle. You may discover that you’ve—unintentionally—hurt someone’s feelings, or even caused them to feel harassed.  
  • Expect something in return. If you come off as giving a compliment in order to receive a reward of some kind, people will think less of you and will likely start to avoid you.

Remember that a specific, heartfelt compliment makes people feel recognized and appreciated—and will lift your spirits, satisfaction and productivity as well as theirs!

American Society of Administrative Professionals

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