Most everyone that I know likes to be complimented – whether it is how they dress, the job they have done, the responsibility they have fulfilled, to name a few. In the parable of the talents, Jesus responded with a compliment - “Well done…” (Matt. 25:21, 23).
A compliment is much different than flattery, which is nothing more than hollow praise given for the purpose of gaining power over another person. Providing compliments is very similar to social praise. Mark Twain said, “I can live two months on a good compliment.” A great compliment from my wife makes me want to work harder on her “hubby to-do list.”
Although most would not admit it, we all need and want praise, recognition, and acceptance. William James once said, “The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
Never underestimate the power of a compliment. We can see how simple praise given to a child or a teenager lights up their life. We know how a simple thank you can "make our own day."
God even gave himself a compliment when He looks out over His creations, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. . ..” (Gen. 1:31NIV)
God placed in every human being the need to be respected and accepted. One of the reasons social praise is so effective is because it makes the recipient feel needed and valued.
We need affection to satisfy the need to belong; we want praise so we can feel admired, and we want recognition to satisfy our need for personal worth. Honest and sincere compliments help build self-esteem, set the stage for a person feeling good, and send messages of appreciation.
Compliments given publicly in your class show positive regard and esteem for the student receiving the compliment. Take an inventory of the number of compliments you give out in your class compared to the number of criticisms. Furthermore, many times teachers get so wrapped up in presenting the lesson and in maintaining control that they forget the emotional needs of those real people seated in front of them.
General statements often appear insincere. The answer is to be specific to what you are offering a compliment on. Don’t be vague, such as “You’re awesome!” and “Great Job!” This may be true, but they do not have any staying power. Be more specific, such as, “You did that report very well. I loved how you organized it so thoroughly and provided such detailed notes for the class.” This approach will appear genuine.
Compliments have the power to change behavior because they make the recipient feel needed and valued. The individual now has a reputation to live up to or an opportunity to prove the validity of the compliment. Besides that, it's hard to not get along and comply with people who admire you, agree with you, and do nice things for you. By mentioning someone's first name, the compliment gets really personal and adds to its sincerity.
Acknowledging is saying who someone is and how you saw it and allows you to express the value you see in another person. Example: “You are compassionate, and I observed it when you sat next to our international student in the cafeteria.” Acknowledging is a powerful tool to get your caring message across, and opens the hearts of students to receive advice and direction for their lives.
“Championing is expressing your beliefs in another person by saying what you see in them (that they likely do not even see in themselves).” For example, “I am confident that you can get your homework in on time. I’ve seen you do it time and time again, and I know that you’re capable of doing what you set your mind to do.”
According to Dr. Jeff Myers, “Together, the skills of complementing, acknowledging and championing make others feel respected and increase their confidence as they begin to see a more accurate view of themselves.”
It costs very little in time and energy to give a word of encouragement or compliment. Begin today! And, if this is already part of your daily routine, check to see if you are specific enough. Set as your goal no less than five compliments per day.