Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

The Art of Giving (& Receiving) Memorable Compliments

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

One of the most memorable compliments I’ve ever received was, “you give very memorable compliments.” While I don’t remember the specifics of what I had said to provoke the compliment, it’s stuck with me for a long time—especially since I haven’t always been this way.

As a preteen, I found little comfort in my own skin. Awkward and pessimistic, I dreaded compliments. If I gave them, I thought people would see me as vulnerable. And if I accepted them, they would think I was arrogant, or worse, they would be mocking me and I would only play into it. My habit of deflecting compliments had gotten so bad that friends told me that I wasn’t fun to be around.

Things changed for me during my junior year of high school. While walking back to my desk after handing in an assignment, I passed one of the “pretty girls” in my class. I looked down. I didn’t want her to notice all of my insecurities or flaws. Instead, she called out to me: “I love that top on you!” 

Normally, in this situation, I would have mumbled a thank you and brushed past her. But that day was different; I wanted the confidence that she had and maybe the first step to getting it was faking it. I turned around and met her with a cheerful: “Thanks so much! Your shirt looks incredible too!” She smiled as she thanked me. And it was such a genuine smile that it made me smile with her.

After that encounter, I made a rule with myself: if you think something nice about somebody, you have to say it to them. And it’s changed my outlook on life. The more you compliment others, the more you notice others’ good qualities, and the more you notice your own good qualities. Research shows that giving and receiving compliments can lead to a snowball effect of positive interactions with others. One study even showed that receiving a compliment feels similar to receiving cash.

So how can you make compliments a part of your life? Here are some of my tips and tricks that will help you make and keep friends, improve your own outlook, or even just make somebody’s day.

The Dos and Don’ts of Complimenting

  • DO pay attention to all of the little things that people do. You’ll end up pointing out things that usually go unnoticed by others, and sometimes even by the person you’re complimenting!

  • DON’T rely on generalizations. While it’s nice to tell someone, “you look good!” or “you’re so funny!” these compliments will seldom stick with the person. For instance, how are they funny? Do they make witty comebacks? Maybe they have a hilarious perspective when they tell stories. Being specific will make people feel unique.

  • DO compliment strangers. This one also goes for people you “kinda” know. Many people are afraid of complimenting people outside of their friend group. But compliments from strangers often end up being the most meaningful. If somebody with nothing to gain interrupts their routine to say something nice to you, you know they’re genuine.

  • DON’T feel the need to respond to every compliment with another compliment. If you receive a compliment and immediately have one to fire back, by all means, let the other person know. But if you hesitate, sifting through your brain to find a compliment, you can seem insincere. Sometimes it’s best to just smile and thank the other person.

  • DO say every compliment that comes to your mind. Get over your inhibitions. Unless you’re being creepy or intrusive, complimenting somebody almost never backfires. Even if the person you’re talking to isn’t very accepting, you still leave the conversation knowing you did everything in your abilities to put some good into the world.

  • DON’T reject others’ compliments. In some cultures, it’s polite to turn down compliments, but most Westerners should stay away from this. A simple thank you won’t come across as prideful or arrogant. But when you reject a compliment that somebody put thought into and took time to say, you’re essentially insulting their opinion.

  • DO bring up old memories with friends. When you let somebody know not only that you admire things you’ve done, but that you remember them, you’re essentially telling them that they made an impact. We spend so much time dwelling on things that embarrassed us or things we regret that we often underestimate the good others see in us. Compliments on our past actions give us positive insight into others’ perceptions of us.

  • DON’T limit your compliments to looks. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with complimenting someone’s physical appearance, especially if it’s a stranger or a friend who made a recent change. But people are so much more than what’s outside and compliments to someone’s personality or actions tend to penetrate so much further. Keep scrolling for examples of both kinds of compliments.

Examples of Good Times to Compliment Someone

  • When the color they’re wearing looks good on them

  • When they wear something flattering 

  • When they wear or do something that aligns with their aesthetic

  • When they say something insightful, funny or witty 

  • When you notice a cute quirk about them

  • When they do something good for another person

  • When one of their talents really shines through

  • When it’s clear they’ve worked hard on something

  • When somebody else says something good about them behind their back (make sure the other person would be comfortable with you telling them)

  • When you see something that reminds you of them

In a world where so much negativity gets spread around on the news, through the internet, and even in our personal lives, compliments are a free and harmless way to insert a little joy into the lives of others. And who knows, maybe you’ll be the person to jumpstart somebody else’s confidence.

Images: 1, 2

Emma Charlotte Young is pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising and Public Relations. Texas-born and New York-raised, she is currently exploring everything the Sunshine State has to offer. When not in school, she enjoys sewing, baking, writing, photography, and playing with her Boston Terriers, Millie Mae and Quinnie Pearl.
UCF Contributor