Communication Skills | Relationship Advice


com•pli•ment: 1. to give praise or show admiration. 2. to express appreciation as an act of courtesy, kindness, or respect. 3. as it applies to this book, to reinforce another person's good feelings about themselves with sincere, personcentered words of appreciation.

You're One More Step Closer To Unleashing The Winner Within! People love to receive the gift of sincere appreciation. One of your main objectives as a master communicator is to take advantage of everyday opportunities that naturally occur to give other people the praise and recognition that they rightfully deserve. That way, you'll dramatically improve the mood of others during your conversations.

I have a favorite Starbucks Coffee store that is located along the famed Pacific Coast Highway near my home in Huntington Beach, California. Its stand-alone building features a modern architectural design with high ceilings and skylights, large glass windows, and an enclosed outdoor heated patio. This Starbucks outlet is a popular spot for the local beach and boating crowd, which includes actress Sandra Bullock and actor-comedian Jay Mohr who have been spotted there on occasions.

Most of all, I like the friendly crew who work there. The employee who usually stands at the front counter on weekday mornings is named Stephen. When I got there this morning, he greeted me by saying, "Hello, how was your weekend?" Stephen is the most naturally cheerful person working there, and it's a nice way to start off my day with his warm and friendly "hello."

Every Starbucks has a tip jar that people put money in to show their appreciation. But I decided to seek out the manager and tell her how much I like the store that she runs. I said to her, "You've got a good thing going here. There are two other Starbucks in this area which are closer to my home than this one. But I like coming here because it's got a friendlier atmosphere. That guy Stephen does a great job for you. Even the customers seem like they're friendlier here, too."

She replied, "You just made my day! I was actually bracing for a complaint when you first pulled me aside. All of us who work here can tell by the sheer number of customers that we're doing well. But it's rare when someone actually pays us a compliment like this. Thank you."

Whether it's during a visit to Starbucks or in an upcoming conversation, remember that if you have something good to say, be sure to share it. And just as importantly, don't forget to express it with sincere emotion. You never know when you're going to be the one who makes another person's day by a timely compliment that comes from the heart.


One of the best ways to score points with other people is to give sincere compliments. If you're perceived as a warm and honest person, other people will more easily accept your compliments. But if it seems like you have something to gain or have a reputation for being manipulative, then most of your compliments will end up being wasted and ineffective.

For example, a friend of mine plays piano in an elegant 5-star restaurant. Recently he told me the following about his experiences with customer compliments versus those he receives in the dating world:

"The compliment that I treasure the most when I'm working is 'You're the reason we travel thirty-five miles to eat at this restaurant! Your beautiful music and warm personality add so much to our dining experience!' I get that quite a lot and it makes me feel incredible. On the other hand, I discount most compliments that have anything to do with my 'education' or 'intelligence' in dating relationships. I usually perceive them almost as a comment about my dating resume rather than an indicator that the woman I'm with really appreciates my true being. I guess it's the emotion behind the compliment I'm looking for in my work environment or my dating life. Gee. Maybe I should date my customers!"

Giving compliments only seems to strike a nerve when it comes from the heart and not just from the head. If you want to improve the quality of your conversations by reinforcing them with compliments, make sure to give only those that you honestly feel. Otherwise, you may create the reverse effect and have people question your intentions.


As a former human relations and effective speaking instructor for Dale Carnegie & Associates, I had the challenging task of complimenting my students after they made two-minute talks in front of our class. During the students' talk, I would search for something in their story that I admired, respected, or liked. By consciously focusing on the good in others, I was able to give a sincere and highly-valued compliment. I would find a positive quality and then back it up with evidence in their performance.

I've found that anyone can give an honest and sincere compliment in their personal and professional lives in the same way that I did as an instructor for Dale Carnegie & Associates. The following guidelines should help you improve your ability to present compliments so that you can begin building stronger relationships in your own life:

Give compliments immediately. If you respond quickly with a sincere compliment, the other person is not likely to feel that you're being premeditated and manipulative. However, when you wait to give a compliment, it can seem forced or out of place. That's why it's important to strike while the iron is hot and to give your compliment before the emotion has long passed.

Say it in simple terms. If your compliment is too complicated, it can sound premeditated or designed to shift the focus away from the recipient and onto you, the giver. If the compliment is too over-the-top, then the receiver may feel uncomfortable with the compliment and doubt its authenticity or suspect your motive. The best thing to do is to find specific evidence that justifies your compliment and to express this in simple words.

Find a variety of good things to say. Look for compliments in either: (1) appearance, (2) actions, (3) possessions, (4) character traits, or (5) sense of style. There are plenty of good things to compliment a person on, if you know where to look. For example, I am especially sensitive to people who appreciate my positive character traits (honesty, enthusiasm, warmth) or my tastes in possessions (cars, clothes, electronics) and lifestyle (vacations, restaurants, and entertainment choices).

Search for the more unique compliment. The rule of thumb is that the rarer the compliment, the more valuable it will be perceived. In other words, if you want to impact a person with your compliment, make sure that you don't state the obvious. Instead, identify something that is underappreciated or overlooked about them in order to have a more highly valued comment.

Make it a public compliment. If the situation is appropriate, feel free to make your compliment in the presence of other people. This will often have a more powerful effect on the receiver of your compliment than by just showing your appreciation in private. When I'm in a casual situation, I usually mix in a comment like: "I normally don't say this kind of thing but..." or "I'm not trying to be a 'suck up' or anything but...." I do it this way to guarantee that the compliment is recognized. At the same time, it won't seem like I'm trying to take too much credit for being the one who gives the praise.

Try putting it in writing. Sometimes a hand-written message of support or appreciation on a card or memo may have a powerful, lasting effect on the recipient. You never know how often a person may re-read and re-experience the joy of well-chosen words of kindness in their own privacy. I always keep a file of cards, notes, and emails from people who have complimented me in my dual careers of writing and travel. Sometimes I need to re-read their words whenever I get down or forget about those who I have personally helped along the way.

Get credit for passing along good news. A third-party compliment is when you pass along good news from another source. You do this by telling how other people have been impressed by an individual. By being specific and giving details, you can give the gift of a subtle sincere compliment even if you're not the original source. If anyone should be suspicious about this kind of compliment, it's easy to counter by saying, "It's not about me at all. I'm actually just the messenger passing along something good."

Accept compliments like a gift. When another person takes the time and effort to compliment you, don't toss it back in their face. Instead, be a gracious acceptor of the gift by simply making eye contact, smiling, and after a short pause, saying "thank you." Otherwise, you may never receive another compliment from that person again. And in some more refined business and social circles, the inability to accept a compliment graciously is a subtle indicator of low self-esteem or a lack of class.

The greatest benefit to giving compliments is that it starts retraining you to focus on the good things in other people. When you start to change your mental and emotional habits for the better, you start changing your entire life for the better. It will also become a lot easier and more natural for you to give sincere compliments once you've truly become a more sincere person.

“I know, indeed, of nothing more subtly satisfying and cheering than a knowledge of the real good will and appreciation of others. Such happiness does not come with money, nor does it flow from a fine physical state. It cannot be bought. But it is the keenest joy, after all; and the toiler’s truest and best reward.”

William Dean Howells
American author and literary critic (1837-1920)

We all like to receive compliments. The best way to begin receiving more of them is to jumpstart the process by paying tribute to others with greater frequency yourself. Take a moment to write a list of the people who you like, respect, and admire. Beside each name, come up with a specific reason why you feel this way about them. For example, maybe you like their smile, sense of humor, or fresh outlook on life.

Now think of an upcoming time when you might give them the gift of your compliment. Does the thought of this action make you feel awkward or fearful? If so, perhaps you can imagine how good it would feel if someone surprised you with a similar positive comment.

For the next week, commit to making at least one person a day feel better about themselves because of a nice thing that you say about them. Go over the suggestions in this chapter and come up with a few different ways of approaching this so that you can start developing a variety of constructive new habits. While you're doing this, keep in mind that you can't raise the self-esteem of another person without also helping to raise your own in the process!


Remember that in order to "talk like a winner" in the broadest sense, you must "compliment like a winner" as well. All you have to do is follow a simple and powerful rule: Make other people feel appreciated. Once you understand the significance of this essential part of successful communication, it's only a matter of experimenting, practicing, and testing it every day in your own life until it becomes a natural habit.