The Power of a Compliment

By eHarmony Staff

The Power of a Compliment

It seems so simple and yet is often overlooked: a genuine compliment offered at the right time, in the right way, can help a budding relationship soar to new heights.

Why? Because we’re all human, and we all love to know we are appreciated and admired—especially by someone of the opposite sex whom we appreciate and admire in return.

Millennia ago, King Solomon wrote hundreds of proverbs that became part of the Bible’s Old Testament. Recognized by historians as one of the wisest people who ever lived, he said, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” And, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

Those were poetic ways of saying that words of affirmation and approval have a dynamic effect on the recipient. In this regard, nothing has changed since the ancient days of Solomon: inspirational words will resonate and reverberate in the life of the one who receives them.

Before we go any further, let’s clear up one thing–we’re not talking about manipulation and maneuvering. Smooth-talking schmoozers and phony flatterers can fool people for only so long. In our age of slick advertisements and clever marketing ploys, we’ve all got our antennae up for come-ons and con men. Instead, we’re talking here about communicating sincere, heartfelt admiration for qualities in your partner. It’s about identifying traits you value about the person you’re dating and expressing authentic appreciation.

Psychologists have identified a “secret” to wonderful relationships: Our love for another person is strongly influenced by how that individual makes us feel about ourselves. Since one of the most potent motivations in life is to feel good about ourselves, we will be drawn to a person who gives a boost to our self-esteem. Some may say this principle sounds self-centered and egocentric, but it is a basic fact of human nature. And indeed this can be a powerful positive force: couples with the best relationships are the ones who encourage, praise, and build up each other.

When you want to convey a compliment, consider these ideas:

Focus on specifics. There’s nothing wrong with a generalized “I think you’re great” kind of accolade — but for maximum impact, make it precise and particular. Tell the person exactly what you admire, with plenty of details. If you like your partner’s sense of humor, tell him or her what especially makes you laugh. If you admire the person’s generosity, say why that means so much to you. Don’t worry about going overboard — most people are more than happy to receive excessive praise.

Say it like you mean it. Some of us feel a little sheepish about giving compliments, so we do it with a quick pat on the back or a mumbled commendation. That’s okay — certainly better than nothing. But it’s much more meaningful to look someone in the eye, maybe grab the person’s hand, and say, “I’ve noticed something very impressive about you…”

Go public. If you want to amplify kudos for your significant other, accentuate the positives publicly. Over dinner with friends, you can say, “I thought it was awesome that Pat spent the past three weekends volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.” Or at a family gathering: “I’m sure you know about Kelly’s job promotion. Well deserved!”

Put it in writing. This doesn’t mean texting or an email message. Take a few minutes to write a note — with pen and paper — saying what you value about the other person. “Just wanted to tell you that I appreciate…” In our era of digital and disposable communication, an old-fashioned, handwritten note is something permanent that can be read over and over.

If you are looking for a lasting and loving relationship, keep this principle front and center in your mind: When you help your lover feel great about himself or herself — and use compliments to do so — the love will return to you tenfold.

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