How to Get More Compliments

Posted on August 15, 2011


When someone gives you a compliment, are you content to bask in the glow of just one, or do you have a strategy for getting more? 

Receiving compliments makes us feel good and plays a crucial role in how we feel about ourselves.  If receiving compliments is so beneficial, shouldn’t we strategize how to get our daily dose of compliments, just like we would for eating healthier, taking vitamins, and exercising?

Sit down and make a list of all the relationships in your life and divide them into two categories:

I give him/her more compliments; He/she gives me more compliments. 

The world can be divided into stars and sidekicks–if you give more compliments to your girlfriend than she gives you, that means you’re the Scottie Pippen and she’s the Michael Jordan.  If you compliment the mailman for always delivering the mail on time and he fails to compliment your yard or garden gnome collection, this means you’re the Pippen and the mailman is the Jordan.  These unequal relationships in your life have to change.

You need to surround yourself with Pippens who will fill every moment of your day with “Great job”, “Looking good”, and “What a handsome smoking jacket”.  You can’t waste any more of your life heaping praise on the Jordans, hoping for an occasional compliment crumb to fall from their ivory table.  You’re probably expecting me to to recommend dropping every Jordan from your life, but allow me to suggest how you can subtly tip the relationship scales in your favor and turn Jordans into Pippens.

The key is to create an unequal relationship by deflecting their rare compliments with miniscule criticisms of yourself and then giving miniscule compliments to them in return, allowing the pyschological balance of fandom to slowly tip in your favor. 

For example:

“Great job on your play, Paul.  You’re a really good writer.  Seems like you’re having a great year.”
“I know everybody thinks my life is perfect, but sometimes I forget to recycle and it makes me feel guilty.  If we don’t recycle then the world might not be around to appreciate all my accomplishments fifty years from now.  Why do I work so hard to achieve such incredible success if future generations won’t be around to enjoy it?”

Within my response, I alluded to everybody thinking my life was perfect and mentioned a slight fault.  Both of these elements will work in his subconscious: “Is Paul’s life perfect?  Am I the only one who didn’t realize Paul is a major success?  Is failure to recycle really the only thing he feels guilty about?  Doesn’t he have other faults?” 

Other insignificant faults could include:

I give terrible directions, often on purpose.
When I wrap Christmas presents, the corners never look symmetrical.
I’m always losing my umbrella.
I’m a terrible whisperer.
I can never tell when avocados are ripe.

After he hears me say my life is almost perfect and I’ve mentioned a slight flaw, he may respond by assuring me the flaw isn’t significant.

“You shouldn’t beat yourself up about not recycling.  You’ve got so many things to be excited about.” 

This is my opportunity to suggest he had been unfavorably comparing himself to me and then to give him an insignificant compliment.  

“Thanks.  But you can’t go comparing yourself to me.  Your time will come…probably.  You can only be the best Todd you can be.  You and I are both good at different things.  Whenever we go out, you always seem to pay the bill with exact change.  How do you do it?  I’m just not good at that kind of stuff like you are.”

Other insignificant accomplishments might include:

Rarely gets cavities.
Always remembers to bring sunscreen.
Good at taking lots and lots of criticism.
Can always guess the speed we’re driving within five mph.
Shoes and belt always match.

In one short conversation, I’ve suggested everyone thinks my life is perfect, mentioned an insignificant fault, alluded to him feeling his life is inadequate compared with mine, and given him a very small compliment as though this were the only good quality I could recognize in him. 

This interaction will continue to work on his subconscious and the balance of our relationship will slowly tip in my favor.  If I can execute two or three similar interactions every week, it won’t be long before he becomes the Scottie Pippen to my Michael Jordan.

Posted in: Columns