Positive words to another person can really go a long way. Humans are social beings and our words are powerful things. In fact there are entire fields of psychology and philosophy dedicated to language and social interaction. When we are talking to people we can make ourselves and the other person feel pretty good, sometimes with a few simple words.
Research shows that compliments stimulate the part of the brain associated with performance and according to CARLA (Center For Advanced Research on Language Acquisition) compliments can have a variety of uses:
- To express admiration or approval of someone’s work/appearance/taste (Manes, 1983; Herbert, 1990).
- To establish/confirm/maintain solidarity (Manes & Wolfson, 1981; Wolfson, 1989).
- To replace greetings/gratitude/apologies/congratulations (Wolfson, 1983, 1989).
- To soften face-threatening acts such as apologies, requests and criticism (Brown & Levinson, 1978; Wolfson, 1983).
- To open and sustain conversation (conversation strategy) (Wolfson, 1983; Billmyer, 1990; Dunham, 1992).
- To reinforce desired behavior (Manes, 1983).
The way a compliment is received is dependent on the context in which it is given and the self-esteem of the receiver. People with a low self-esteem aren’t as receptive to compliments as people with a normal or high self-esteem. Culture and upbringing can also affect this. For example there are cultures where it is more acceptable to compliment children or cultures where it might not be acceptable to compliment a person’s spouse…etc. Depending on upbringing, ideology and circumstances compliments may or may not be well received.
However when the situation allows it a compliment can go a long way to helping ourselves and the other person feel great. One study shows it stimulates the part of the brain responsible for a feeling of reward
Compliments are little gifts of love They are not asked for or demanded. They tell a person they are worthy of notice. They are powerful gifts.
Even constructive criticism (i.e. You are doing it too fast, slow down a little and you will notice more detail or you’re soup will taste a lot better with a bit more onion…etc.) can be very positive. We must be careful to keep this kind of feedback positive but when carefully worded constructive criticism is often a practical way to help someone improve their job or life somehow.
Never be afraid to give someone a compliment. Even if the compliment is not well received no one in their right mind would ever get or stay angry and we have a much greater chance of brightening their day and your own.