Before You Compliment Someone, Think About THIS First…

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You want to make the other person feel good. You want to make an impact – so you compliment them. But are your compliments really making an impact?

Or could they be better? What if I told you some compliments are so impactful they will stay with a person for a lifetime… do you wonder what is different about those versus others?

Do your compliments really even matter? How to truly make an impact on someone.

Remember my post about what to do when a compliment feels like a lie? There are many reasons why we might feel like the compliments we receive are untrue. Thankfully there are certain things we can do about that.

In today’s post, I wanted to focus on the other side of compliments – the act of giving genuine compliments. It may not seem like a very difficult task on the surface, however it is often the case that those who have trouble receiving compliments also frequently have trouble giving genuine compliments as well.

The core idea behind this is what we are focusing on GENUINE compliments, not surface-deep compliments. Keep reading to find out what I mean…

What are ‘genuine’ compliments?

Before we begin the discussion I wanted to make one thing straight about what I mean when I talk about compliments and praise. In this conversation, I am referring to true and genuine compliments that come from the heart and are meant for the good, rather than random “compliments” that address objects that are materialistic in nature.

Many of us may think that we have no issues giving compliments to others but when you look deeper you may notice that most of the things that get complimented on are external rather than about the person. While those compliments may feel genuine, in terms of that you truly mean them, they refer to the object NOT the person.

I want to make sure we don’t get confused here about the wording. Yes, genuine does mean that you mean something truly – but we are talking about the target and focus of the compliment itself when determining whether the compliment is a genuine compliment or a surface compliment.

For example, these types of “compliments” are not something I refer to as genuine compliments:

“I love your shoes”

“That dress looks so good on you!”

“Wow! Your car is amazing! I wish I could have a car like that. I am so jealous”

The reason why I do not consider these compliments genuine is because they usually only run surface deep. We are not addressing the person in this compliment. I’m not saying it’s bad to give these types of compliments to people, surely people buy and wear certain things for a reason and they want to be acknowledged for it, however these things are not what describes a person.

I remember a few years ago in one of my college classes, we had a discussion about fashion, materialism, and compliments. I think it was philosophy of fashion (or was it something about feminism? I don’t remember exactly) or some class like that. Here’s some great reasoning I heard from a fellow student about this topic  —

“I got a compliment on my outfit – I love your dress! But I am not the person who created this dress. They are really complimenting the maker of whoever made this item and it is not me. I mean, sure – they acknowledge that they like the things I like, but this still does not really address who I am as a person. I am not my dress. I am not my shoes. Nor am I my car. If these thing were taken away from me, what would you say then? That’s what a true compliment is. That’s a compliment that’s directed toward ME as a person.”

The idea is that objects do not make a person. (click to tweet)

A person’s traits, behaviors, and actions is what makes a person and those are the things that are truly worthy of praise. This is the praise we crave as human beings and this is what affects us and impacts us on a deeper level.

For example, this is what I refer to when I’m talking about compliments that are more genuine in nature because they address the person rather than the objects:

“You are so stylish.”

“You are such a kind person, you always make me feel good.”

“You are beautiful.”

“Wow, you are so smart. You can really figure out how to solve problems so easily.”

Do you see what I mean here? We address the traits, personality, or natural inherent look. These are the things that really matter because those things make the person who they truly are.

Why are genuine compliments less common?

Now that we’ve established what I mean when referring to genuine compliments, I wanted to go further. You might have noticed that, in reality – genuine compliments are not as easy to give as are surface compliments.

First thing that comes to mind is society (of course, society always seems to be the reason). Hear me out – in a society that has become increasingly more materialistic in nature, many of us have learned to associate with the objects we acquire. Many people have learned to hide behind the objects they buy and have those objects do the talking. We started to use products as means to define our identity. I mean, why else would you buy a fancy car? Why else buy expensive clothes? Many times it’s because these products are saying something about you – however they also end up distracting others from seeing into the real you.

It’s easy to compliment others on the objects they buy, use, and wear. But what if we were all stripped away and all that stuff was taken from us? There is nothing else you can compliment them on that would be of material nature. That’s when you start to get to work… you actually start to think. You begin to feel and dig deeper.

Stuff we own is like an armor. It prevents others from seeing into who we truly are. The stuff is a distraction. Many of us are self-conscious deep down and we hurt. We don’t want to show who we truly are to the world because what if we are perceived as “different”? What if we aren’t liked? What if our personality traits are unfavorable to the other person? Then we face rejection. And we will do anything to avoid that terrible feeling… Such as buying an armor full of stuff to distract others from seeing into who we truly are.

So why is it so difficult to look deeper?

    • We are used to being distracted by stuff – we are used to complimenting others and defining others based on their armor rather than who they are at their core.
    • Giving genuine compliments requires us to look deep within the person, past the armor, and notice the traits and quirks that truly make them who they are. It may feel like an invasion of privacy at times but this is the acknowledgment we truly desire to receive at our core.
    • They are full of soul – if you struggle with self-esteem or body image issues, you may feel consumed by negative feelings and thoughts you feel about your own self. Being surrounded by this inward negativity might make it harder for you to notice the inner beauty in others.

Are you confused about the last point? Maybe you don’t think this really is true…

Is it possible that our own self-esteem and body image may be affecting how well we see into the soul of another person?

I had no idea this was true until I came with this face-to-face myself.

Edit: this post was originally longer but I decided to split it into two —

CLICK HERE to read part 2 of this post!

Questions for you so far: 

What are your reactions to this so far? 

Last Updated on March 27, 2019

Before You Compliment Someone, Think About THIS First…
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  1. This post is great, very insightful. I never really thought about this before but it totally makes sense – there is more to it than we think.

    The best compliment I ever received was when I was in high school and I got an A on a test I was studying for for nights. My mom looked at me and she said “I am so proud of you, you are a very intelligent woman.” It’s not even that big of a thing but I remember it to this day. It made me feel so good.

  2. What’s the point of “fake” compliments – I only speak the truth and really that’s the only way people should live in general. Lying gets you absolutely no where!

  3. This was really interesting! It makes me want to intentionally try to give ‘deeper’ compliments; instead of complimenting the dress, compliment my friend’s sense of style {unless she made the dress!}. It’s a paradigm shifter! Thanks for sharing!!!

  4. Wow, this really made me think, Kammie! I’ll have to make my goal moving forward to compliment on less surface things–it’s so true that we often fall into that trap!

    I’m really digging this quote, too: “LIFE is beautiful. WE are life. Therefore we all are BEAUTIFUL.”

  5. Great post, Kammie! You’re really in my head with this one!

  6. So many great things to ponder in this post! I often feel like I blurt out compliments, but it is true that the most meaningful address the person on the inside. Great topic!

  7. Great, thoughtful post! I think another reason why genuine compliments are so tough to give for some people because they require additional effort in getting to see someone beyond that “armor” you described so perfectly. In our busy/crazy/hectic/nonstop lives we’re selective on where our efforts go, and sadly many are unwilling to dedicate some of it towards others.

    But one’s own self-esteem is definitely a key factor in the types of compliments he/she gives. I hear so many girls giving others what I would call “jealous compliments” (perfect example: “wow your legs are so skinny”), and those are a direct reflection of their own insecurities (but not always obviously).

    Anyway, great food-for-thought post 🙂 I’m going to keep your points in mind for future genuine compliments!

    • I totally agree about being selective where our attention goes. It’s sad but true, and especially for us, young professionals, we are in the swing of things and tend to focus all the energies on work/etc. And yes to the “jealous compliments” I hear them all the time and they honestly piss me off. Many times it’s a way of fishing for someone to respond back with a compliment or just make the person feel awkward. And that’s because you can FEEL the weird energy that’s coming behind the compliment. It’s crazy how many different compliments there are and how they are perceived, etc. Thank you for reading!

  8. I love this post and it totally makes sense. I actually prefer to give compliments that receive them as I feel awkward if I ever get one. I did just compliment a woman next to me in Pure Barre class the other day and she was really happy. I think the better I feel about myself, the easier it is to compliment others as I am not concerned with what people think because I am in a good and happy place 🙂

  9. Great post, Kammie!

    Wait…. no! You’re a great writer! Keep it up girl! <3


  10. Great points! I try to make a point to find something to compliment someone on each day. I know how good it makes me feel!

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  13. Love this post and the reminder to give genuine compliments. Even with my kids I need to be more aware of if I’m complimenting them or an object.

    • It’s a good thing to keep in mind definitely. Neither type of compliment is good nor bad, but it’s just something to keep in back of your mind so you know you are definitely making an even bigger impact with the words on a deeper level 🙂 Thank you for reading!

  14. I love this post!! Thank you KAMMIE!! Compliments are actually what fed my eating disorder for years. I learned to only value myself off of compliments from others. Now, when I give a compliment, I try to make it about their personality, and not about looks. I think that’s what we should all be doing. Thank you for this post!:) You’re amazing!!:) Love the You Tube Channel by the way!:) I totally need to start one! #procrastination!

    • Aww Heather, thank you so much – your comment made my day. I’m so happy to hear you agree and that you have used the same practice in your own life. I hope you are doing better with your ED, but I can totally relate how it can feed into it. We begin to disorderly crave those “you’re hot” compliments and it’s what keeps us going and we forget that we are human, more than just how we appear on the surface. There’s a lot more to each person than just appearance and that’s the thing that stays with us, no matter what. Have a great rest of your day, Heather, and thank you for reading! xo

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  16. I’m visiting from The Lean Green Bean’s Bean Byte’s post and love what you had to say!
    For as long as I can remember, I’ve been uncomfortable and never really knew what to say if someone complimented me on my appearance. I was brought up being taught that your brain and work ethic are what matters (& I love my parents for that). I eventually stopped putting an effort into my appearance because I got tired of saying “thank you” when someone told me what beautiful blue eyes I have or they wished they had my long legs. It’s not like I chose my eye color or asked for long legs. I wanted to be noticed for my hard work and intelligent!
    This post voices what I didn’t know how to say out loud and I thank you for that! I try to give only genuine compliments for the most part (though sometimes I’ll compliment someone on a material item, it happens 😉 ) and I wish others understood the true value of a compliment based on the person rather than what that person owns. Fantastic metaphor with our material items being armor.

    • Thank you so much for reading, Amber and I’m glad you agree that genuine compliments are the way into the person’s soul. They are really important and I hope more people realize this and take advantage of it! You parents sound like fantastic people too, taught you well! xo

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