It’s the little things we do on a regular basis that have the greatest impact on most areas of life – including relationships. How you talk to others, the kind of voice you use, your intonation and the words you choose all make a difference.
An important part of building any relationship involves doing or saying things that feels good to that person. Of course, a person with a healthy self-esteem doesn’t need to hear anything from you to know they are worthwhile or to feel complete, but we are not talking about them at this point, we are talking about your relationship with them.
The late, Stephen Covey talked about this as building an emotional bank account with the person and suggested that anytime you said or did something kind, caring or helpful, you were making a deposit into your relationship bank account. He went on to say that anytime you did something negative (broke a promise, laughed at them, put them down…) you were making a withdrawal.
I call this the give and take of relationships and both Covey and I suggest you make sure you are giving (depositing) more than you are taking (withdrawing).
Giving a person a compliment is an easy way to make a person feel good and build on your relationship with them. For this to work it is important to be authentic (there must be a strong element of truth in what you are saying) and it must be said in a tone that suggests you mean it.
Unfortunately, when we are in a negative space with another person (colleague, child, neighbour), it can be really hard to see the positives and find something to compliment them on. When this happens I suggest you start with small things, “Nice shirt” and then learn how to find the positive in the bigger things, such as the argument they are intent on winning; “Your determination and willingness to see something through to the end is pretty amazing.”
One of the greatest challenges we face with those we are close to is not always being authentic with our compliments because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. In this case you might tell them you love their new hairstyle when in fact you think it looks terrible. When this happens you create a trust rift especially when you later admit that you didn’t like the way it looked. Try to always be authentic, “You’re so cute you can pull off any hairstyle,” might be a way of not hurting them and still being authentic.
It’s also helpful to become aware of the different qualities of a compliment so that you can practice using the ‘big ones’ more often. A small compliment focuses on something the person has no control over and is not part of who they are, such as; “Nice shirt.” A notch up from this would be a compliment that focuses on something unique to them but still not something they really control; “You have beautiful eyes.” One level higher would be sharing a compliment about something they have some control over and is connected to them; “That colour really brings out your eyes.”
Although how a compliment feels is unique to a person’s story and situation, the ultimate compliments tend to be those that are specific to them and that they control, “I really enjoy spending time with you, you have such a great sense of humour.”
The point of this article is not to critique compliments, but to show you that with some thought your compliments can become more meaningful and therefore have a more positive impact on relationship building. Although it might seem like such a little thing in life, when it comes to building relationship, kind acts – like giving a compliment – really do count.
Enjoy this short video on playing Compliments Count (Family Booster Shot series)