The Best Compliments—Ever

When I’m having a tough day, there’s a special compliment I pull out and imprint on my brain….

It’s from a woman who emailed me saying: “I was receiving chemo and reading your book outloud. All of us in the room were laughing so hard, the nurse came to check on us.”

The compliment made me cry. Little did the reader know that I’d written the book for my mom. She died before I finished it. The reader’s words were balm to my soul.

My writing critique group analyzed the mysteries of what  makes a GREAT compliment.  The warm words you haul out when days are dark and the laughter is scarce?

Here’s a start.  Feel free to add to the list…or even argue with it:


Recognize the person’s character. It’s easy to say, “That was a  (good meal, nice piece

Your smile reminds me of the Laughing Cow. NOOOOO…that’s not the compliment you want to use.

of writing, kind gift, nice outfit….blah blah,whatever ).

So go one step deeper. Compliment the character trait. The willingness of the cook to take time to create such a  tasty meal.  Or the openness of the writer to share so deeply. Or the talent of the giver to craft such a lovely gift or outfit.

Anybody can give someone a piece of chocolate,  But the compliment comes from recognizing the behind-the-scenes personal effort (thinking about them, spending time and money, and delivering it—that takes intent and concern.  It’s like a kiss to the soul when someone else

You have a crocodile smile. Er…I mean a BIG smile. Forget it. That won’t work either.

recognizes the depth of your efforts.

Make the compliment specific. I like to hear the words, “Good job,” but I like it even better when someone says, “They way you describe this character makes me laugh and cry in the same sentence. “Nice smile,” becomes even more personal when it’s “Your smile makes me feel important.”

Do You appreciate it or not? I have a friend who hands out compliments in this manner: “It’s a good thing you’re small, or you couldn’t wear that dress.
I have begun replying, “Is that a compliment or a complaint?”

C’mon. Don’t be stingy. If you appreciate something, commit to saying say so with, “I really

Your smile helps my heart laugh and remember the world is good.

liked it when….”  “It meant a lot to me when….”

Be genuine.  I bet everyone has received a fake-O admiration. It’s like pouring sour milk over a conversation. Thanks for the Blaaaah feeling I get from your pseudo goodwill. If you don’t mean it–don’t say it. But surely there’s something positive you can say about a burnt meal or a bad hair-cut. Even if it’s about how they have the character to deal with it (eventually laugh about it??)  and go on.

So now share with me please….

What’s a compliment you pull out on your crummy days?  Why is it special?

Photos by: Jo Jakeman, fdecomite, Delirante,Vanessa Pike Russel

10 thoughts on “The Best Compliments—Ever

    • I have a friend like that. I love to hear her laugh. I wish I could hear yours. There’s something about a laugh that uses the whole being that’s so uplifting and mood-changing. Keep laughing.

  1. Twice within the last three weeks I’ve been told – by two different people – that they love to hear me laugh. “You have the nicest laugh.” and “Your laugh always cheers me up.” That’s nice.

  2. My mom was a great one for left-handed compliments. One of my favorites – and now it makes me laugh, but it certainly didn’t then – was a remark she made when I came home with my school pictures in the tenth grade. You remember how touchy you were then, right? My mom looked at my photo and said, “That’s a dreadful picture.(Three second pause.) But it looks just like you.”

  3. Well put.
    This post made me think about how I compliment others, and how I react when others compliment me. I also remembered a recent time when someone considered me: a nephew made a dessert to bring to a family gathering specifically thinking of my dietary restrictions. I was so touched by his thoughtfulness that I am still bringing it up. I hope I thanked him appropriately.

    • Such a good point. Using actions to make me feel special is even better than using words. For Lent, I added something as well as gave up something. I don’t want to talk about it yet in case I fail so miserably that I embarass myself….. but your words have inspired me on other things I could do. Thanks.

      And tell me, Dimple, which blog are you using?. I’m having a hard time finding you.

  4. This is an excellent message–specifics are so valuable; you’re right that the generic compliments fall terribly flat–like why do they bother? I had a couple people–one is someone close to me, and I know she loves me–who were reading my short story series. They inevitably said they “liked” it. But when I asked, “what do you like about it, what parts, what lines–the character, the description?” it was just useless. All they knew was that they liked it–and I could either accept that, or not. It was very frustrating. So I get what you’re saying–and I wish I could come up with a reply to what you asked, about a compliment I might “pull out”, but I don’t have one handy. Maybe because it’s Midnight–or maybe, I really don’t have one. As far as my blog, I love it when readers are specific–I love when they say something touched/moved them, even more than their compliments about my writing ability. Am I rambling? Never mind–God bless you BIG this week–much love, Caddo

    • I belong to a critique group, and out of a dozen people, about four will give specific feedback. A lot of times they just draw happy faces or write”cute.” or “good.” Thank the Lord for the few who are willing to be brave and speak up. Rose(below) is one of those courageous readers and I’m thankful for her.

      I’ve learned most folks dont know what to say, or they don’t feel qualified to say it.
      But you’re right. We can’t fix it or improve it if we don’t get specific feedback.
      For me, I appreciate how you accept the wartiness of people as simply part of the package. You’re someone I feel I could sit on the porch with and we’d be so busy talking we wouldn’t realize the sun had set.

Add your 2cents to the discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s