Compliments: how to make and receive them

Compliments: how to make and receive them

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We live in a society that usually highlights our negative aspects instead of the positive ones. Positive reinforcement usually gives way to punishment. Instead of communicating what we like about others, we tend to highlight what we don't like or what we think they have done wrong. This goes so far that Many people find it hard to accept compliments. On many occasions the feeling is of discomfort, of disbelief ... "Why do they say this to me?".

In the same way that accepting compliments can be somewhat complicated, doing them does not run a different fate. Highlighting a positive aspect of another person can also be a blockage.. On the one hand, if we are not used to it we may not fall into doing them. On the other hand, if we have not complied, they can address issues such as: "Will I be out of place?" "Will it feel bad?" "Will it sound authentic?"

"We don't have to perpetuate the negative just because it's usual; we can learn to change."

-María Nieves Vera-

Throughout this article, the concept of compliment, the different types and their characteristics will be investigated. The advantages of complimenting and accepting them will also be addressed. Finally, different strategies will be offered to make them and how to accept them.


  • 1 What are compliments?
  • 2 Advantages of making and accepting compliments
  • 3 How to make and accept compliments

What are compliments?

As Sergio Lopera (2014) highlights: "Compliments are expressive speech acts that aim not only to demonstrate courteous behavior, but also to indicate that there is an assessment of joint solidarity opinions". In other words, it is a way of highlight something positive from the other person. Lopera points out that there are different types of compliments among which we find those that focus on:

  • Appearance. The issuer expresses something positive about the other person's physique: "How well you have that hairstyle!"
  • Possession. We express our pleasure for something the other person has: "What a beautiful car you have bought!"
  • Skill. We highlight some skill of the other person: "You are great at your job!"
  • Personality. It highlights an aspect of the way of being of the other person we like: "I love that you take things in such a calm way!".

Lopera also collects features about compliments:

  • They are often said among the people of the same age or status.
  • People over thirty usually receive compliments on the skill. Those under thirty usually receive them on appearance.
  • Women usually make and receive more compliments than men.
  • The compliments they do women tend to focus on appearancewhile the men usually focus on skill and tend to be more impersonal.

Advantages of making and accepting compliments

Making and receiving compliments has its advantages. The psychologists María Nieves Vera and Gloria María Roldán (2009), point out the advantages of both making them and knowing how to accept them.

Advantages of making them

  • It helps us to have friends. Compliments serve, enter other things, to deepen human relationships and make them warmer and stronger.
  • Through compliments we let others know what we think of them.
  • The behaviors we like about others can increase as they have been reinforced.
  • It facilitates communication with others.
  • They are usually reciprocal. If we do a compliment, sometimes we usually receive it back.
  • They can make us feel good because it helps us express our positive feelings.

Advantages of accepting them

  • Increase the likelihood of being complied with in the future.
  • It makes us feel good and can increase our self-esteem.
  • Through compliments we can know what others like about us.
  • It helps establish friendly relationships.
  • By accepting a compliment, we reduce the tension that could be generated if we run out of words because of shame or anxiety or react defensively.
  • We accept positive opinions instead of rejecting or questioning it.
  • We reinforce the other person for giving us a compliment.

How to make and accept compliments

The authors, Vera and Roldán, also explain how to do them so that they are effective and we are not too petulant or unbelievable. On the other hand, they also offer us some strategies to know how to accept them, since so many people have a hard time managing their reaction when they hear one.

How to make them

  • Sincerity. It is important to be honest when it comes to highlighting something we like about the other person. Normally we can always find something to highlight.
  • Direct and personalized. One aspect to note is that the compliment must be personalized. For example, avoid general compliments such as "I like people who smile"; and it is recommended to replace it with "I love that you smile so much".
  • Without exaggerating. Better not to be too exaggerated. For example: "I love your house, it's the prettiest house I've ever seen, it's beautiful, it's great, how wonderful…". We run the risk of losing credibility and sounding too petulant.
  • Double messages There are compliments with those who do not know if we are highlighting something positive or negative. For example: "How handsome you are in this photo, you don't look like you". Better stay in "How handsome you are in this photo".
  • Nonverbal language. It is important to get involved in compliment nonverbally. If we do it by looking away, too serious and in a very low tone of voice, we can be somewhat disconcerting.
  • Avoid asking a favor When we do a compliment For example: "How busy you are, you're good at it, listen, could you do me a favor?". We can lose all credibility and we can condition the other person to know that we want something from him when we say something positive. The double-compliment-favor is typical of manipulative people.
  • Use the name. By making a compliment we can strengthen their power by using the name of the person to whom it is addressed: "How good that hat suits you, Maria!".
  • Context. The context is important. If there are more people in front and we know that the other person may be uncomfortable, better leave the compliment for when we are alone. For example: "I loved the exhibition of your work".
  • Be natural. It is preferable to avoid being quiet just after and better to continue talking normally. If we remain silent we can make the other person not know very well what to say or we can give the feeling that we are waiting for another compliment back.
  • Be spontaneous It is advisable to make compliments at the moment we are thinking about them.

How to accept them

  • Acceptance. Before rejecting it, better accept that it is sincere. If we deny, ignore or doubt the compliment, we are somehow belittling the other person.
  • Return it, yes or no? We must avoid feeling obliged to return it. If what we are going to say is just to look good we may seem too forced. Better be natural and say it if we have something to say.
  • Avoid showing off. If someone congratulates us for a job well done, it is recommended to avoid boasting, for example: "Thank you very much, it is true, it has turned out great, not like the rest, that has come out regular ... is that I am the best".
  • Be thankful. It is important to be grateful but with a thank you and a smile is enough.


  • Lopera, S. (2014). The use of colloquial language in compliments in a university population. Linguistics and literature, 66, 89-103.
  • Vera, M. and Roldán, G. (2009).Social anxiety Practical manual to overcome fear. Madrid: Pyramid Editions.