I think we do this because the possibility of failure triggers an ancient avoidance urge that protected us against potentially fatal threats in older times.
Failures happen more than successes, so if a failure turned out to be life threatening, we learned to avoid uncertainty and failure. Over time this avoidance urge became hardwired. But today most failures won’t result in death, but we still avoid uncertainty, usually at the expense of happiness.
Because we choose certainty over happiness, any small unexpected joy can make a big difference for people. Lately, as an exercise while teaching English, we studied how to give compliments. it was an opportunity to learn a useful skill while practicing new vocabulary and some reading.
This is advice on giving a great compliment is from Brian Kim that I’ve paraphrased and shortened for you:
First, really want to give a compliment to someone. If you don’t want to give somebody a compliment, don’t, you’ll just sabotage yourself by coming across as insincere.
A compliment of quality takes time to make so don’t just use the standard compliments. Think about the person you want to compliment and come up with something specific because nothing screams insincerity like vagueness or a cliché.
Choose something unique about that person. Make observations on any quality, mannerism, or habit, that makes them stand out from everybody else.
Try thinking of something unique that nobody else has complimented them on before and expand on it. Appreciate the little things the person does. When you find that something, make it descriptive and specific. Expand on it and make sure you’re able to justify why you think it’s great.
For example, “I noticed that you never talk about people behind their back.” And follow it up with, “That’s a rare quality nowadays.” Then give a real life example to back it up saying something like, “Remember that time when everybody was talking about Jim? You didn’t, instead you stood up for him when he wasn’t there and you gained a new measure of respect in everybody’s eyes.”
The timing is important; give your compliment when it’s just you and the other person. People remember one on one encounters more because no one else is competing for attention.
Also, don’t just greet the person and deliver your compliment. Let the conversation flow. When you are in a conversation and you’re both comfortable, that’s the time.
Set up your compliment with questions such as: “You know what I noticed about you?” “You know what I think is great about you?” This is the ultimate hook since everyone is always interested in themselves. When you ask them these questions, all their attention will be focused.
Deliver the compliment and believe what you’re saying. If you really don’t believe what you are saying, they’ll instantly pick up on the insincerity and you’ll do more harm than good. All your future compliments will now be in question.
Look them in the eye, lean forward, use your body, and stress your voice when you give your compliment.
Don’t give compliments out every time you have a chance. If you keep on doing it, each successive compliment will lose its value. It’s based on the scarcity principle. Bring out the big guns when you really want or need to.
When you give a compliment, don’t follow up with asking for a favor. It’ll seem as if you were just buttering them up for something in return. Give your compliment freely and expect nothing in return.
If you take the time to prepare and deliver a compliment, you’ll find your relationships get stronger. People will greatly appreciate your compliments and draw upon them for strength when they’re unhappy.
It’s something that can instantly lift someone’s spirit, and make them happier.