How To Give Compliments: A Beginner’s Guide

The world can be mean. It can be cruel. It can be heartless. Why on earth would you want to add to it by being a jerk? I’ll talk more about not being a jerk in a future article but right now, let’s talk about something you can do even while you’re still a jerk. In fact, this may help you not be a jerk anymore. What is this magical thing? Well if you read the title, you know. Compliments.

How many times have you received a compliment today? How about this week? Compliments are much rarer than you may assume at first. You probably think a lot of nice things about people but don’t communicate those nice thoughts very often. Compliments can be scary, especially when paying them to the opposite sex. What if it sounds creepy? What if it sounds shallow? What if it sounds inappropriate? What if it comes off completely different from the way it was intended?

If you’re largely unfamiliar with giving a compliment, you may be too afraid to start. Well, you needn’t worry. I have compiled a short list of basic unisex compliments that are almost certain to be taken as kindly as they are intended. (Obviously, some of these have to be used in certain context. I trust you can figure that out.)



Those are great shoes.

You have beautiful eyes.

You light up every room you walk into.

Are you a genius? You just seem like you’re probably a genius.

You have a contagious smile.

You seem like you have your act together.

You’re probably one of those people who will never grow old.


In Conversation:

I love the way you tell this story.

You always know what to say.

You’re a great listener.

You have really good ideas.

I think your perspective is really refreshing.



Next? Here are a few basic rules I’d recommend following if you’re not sure if the water is good to drink yet (some rules may no longer apply once you become proficient at compliments. Once you become a master, you basically ignore all of the rules and conquer the world):

1. Never compliment body parts. The only observations you should vocalize about someone’s body is if they look slimmer (and this is not applicable to someone who is very skinny. The worst thing you can say to a skinny person is “you’re so skinny!” Don’t be an idiot.) and if their hair looks nice/different. And you can always compliment a man’s facial hair if he has any. Well, only compliment it if it actually looks good. There are too many guys walking around confidently with long flowing peach fuzz because people go out of their way to compliment males with something on their face. It’s probably the same reason people talk about the weather. Which brings me to the next rule.

2. Don’t give out compliments unless you mean what you say. Compliments are wrapped up in unique assessments and observations. Don’t go out of your way to positively verbalize an observation that isn’t really positive in your mind. That’s a little thing people used to call “lying.” Not everyone is beautiful to everyone. But if someone is beautiful to you, tell them. Don’t tell them because they want to be told they’re beautiful. There are other things you can say. Which leads to the next rule, or rather, a recommendation.

3. Find something nice to say about everyone you see. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering and it doesn’t even have to be something you say out loud. But look for something that you truly think is great about everyone you meet. Making nice thoughts an activity will increase your ability to give compliments and genuinely like people more than you do now.

4. When complimenting clothing, always be tactful and tasteful. Never tell a woman that something she’s wearing is sexy or hot. Show some class.

5. Don’t make a compliment too heavy. The recipient may be flattered, but the weight of your words may make the situation uncomfortable for them. Don’t just look at a young lady and say “you are spectacularly beautiful.” and then just wait for her to respond. I speak from experience when I say you’ll regret not giving her some sort of escape. Add some teasing factor or something self-deprecating to nullify your compliment once the compliment is setting in. One occasion I told a young lady that she was beautiful and as she began to say “thank you” I added “especially being from Arkansas.” That made her laugh and caused a playfully antagonistic continuation of our time together. Of course, this example is within the context of her being from Arkansas and my not being from the natural state. But there are many contexts and different cues you can pick up on and use to soften the blow of a big compliment.



If you’ve read these guidelines and plan on applying them, congratulations! You’re ready to step into the wonderful world of compliments. I’ll be writing more on this topic so be sure to have a look at the other articles on this site!


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