How to Make a Compliment Last a Lifetime

I give many more compliments than I receive, and I mean them. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad sign :-) Not compliments like, “Great job!” or “What a beautiful dress!” but rather what I call “Character Compliments.” 

When I left a former employer, I sent a senior executive – who could be really tough --  “The Top 10 Reasons Why I Loved Working for You.” I told her she was always honest and ever tireless; that I could see she truly cared about me and my colleagues as human beings and professionals, instead of just reducing us to commercial assets who were a means to the end of driving profits. I told her I was grateful for her characteristic gratitude, for frequently starting her emails with, “Thank you.” And much more.

My note was 100% candid, and deeply appreciated. She told me it brought tears to her eyes. I wasn’t just praising what she did, but who she was as a human being. Character compliments.

Two compliments that were most meaningful to me came many years ago. They were from people I was very close to, one of whom was not prone to giving compliments, especially to me :-) She said, “Bruce, you’re tough and you don’t give up.” The other person told me, “You’re intuitively kind, more so than you know.” Obviously these words stuck with me.  

A few weeks back, my daughter and I were at a convenience store where we regularly stop after her music lessons. We're usually chipper and chatty with the cashier. One night we went to the register and he said, "I'm always glad when you two come in. It's fun to see you. You're different."

It was just passing praise. It took so little effort. But it meant so much. I think I'll always remember it and treasure it as a shared moment with my daughter.

Character compliments like, “You’re a wonderful person” are powerful, and much more powerful if you tick off some qualities you admire about someone, and give an example or two.

People on the receiving end of character compliments know that you’ve taken the time to notice who they are underneath what they do. You haven't just heard their words or observed their actions. You looked for the meaning behind them – and that means a lot.

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