I can live two months on one good compliment. – Mark Twain

You have the power to make the people around you better through the power of a good compliment. Even if you have tough things that need to be addressed, lead with a genuine compliment and you will have a much more positive outcome.

My 8th grade football coach was a former Marine drill instructor whose cigarette-smoke breath I still smell each time a Kansas prairie burns. I suppose yelling derogatory insults works well if you’re an Army drill instructor sending kids off to face machine guns, but that style of leadership never motivated me. However, my basketball coach in high school was generous with true compliments and I exerted herculean effort to please him. Oh, sure, he’d bark at me if I messed up so I worked harder to make sure he never had to bark at me.

There is also some science behind this that indicates people will perform better if they receive  honest compliments. The brain is as stimulated by a compliment as it is by a cash reward. (Check out this short video on CNN by Dr. Sanjay Gupta)

  • Be genuine- The compliment must be real. An insincere compliment is like having your Mom wash your face with a dirty wash rag; it just doesn’t do the job. Or, as my Dad used to say, They’re blowing smoke up your skirt.
  • Be specific – Find something specific that person does such as, I like the way you treat people as equals. Broad generalities like, you’re the greatest person in the world, are like participation medals. They mean almost nothing and are cheap. The most unusual compliment I ever received was from a lady who was introducing me to a group of people whom I was going to address on the issue of hunger and said, “Rick has a heart bigger than my butt!” A bit awkward, but I’ve never forgotten it!
  • Be generous – Most people have a fair share of negative thoughts banging around in their head that they could use a few more compliments to overcome negative voices .
  • Be quick – When you see someone doing good, compliment them immediately.
  • Be creative- If passing on a verbal compliment is hard for you, send a note, write an email, or give them a bar of chocolate (okay, maybe that only works on me).

You have the ability to not only brighten someone’s day, you have the power to help them perform with greater passion and excellence.

Besides all of that, being nice will increase your own personal happiness.


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