I have mixed feelings about today, February 24, being International Compliment Day. It is meant to celebrate the power of well-deserved compliments. A well-placed compliment can make a person’s day; it lets someone know that you see them and like or appreciate something about them. This is good, except when it isn’t.

When can compliments be a negative addition to an interaction?

  1. When they are solicited. Sometimes people feel trapped into giving a dishonest compliment. Think of the question, “Do I look good in this dress?” Even if you don’t think so, you might lie to keep the peace or to protect the asker’s feelings.
  2. When they are used to control. It’s possible to control others with compliments. If you like something someone has done and you’re hoping for more of it, you may use compliments to get more, sometimes at the expense of the person being complimented. For example, “Oh, I love your chocolate chip cookies. I really hope you’ll be baking some for the band bake sale this weekend.”
  3. When you compliment someone on how they look, smell or sound. This is often considered sexual harassment and needs to checked before it comes out of your mouth.
  4. When they supersede the person’s own opinion of themselves. Sometimes you might compliment someone about something when you don’t know how the person feels about it. We do this to children a lot; we tell them what’s good and bad without first learning how they feel about it.

No matter the intention, compliments can backfire.

I would rather use International Compliment Day as a day to tell the people I am grateful for in my life the things I appreciate about them.

Why don’t you join me? You can’t go wrong, there. Sharing how you feel about their contribution to your life has nothing to do with whether or not they think it’s significant. You are owning it. You are grateful. Tell the truth. Don’t try to find something if you aren’t feeling grateful; please be genuine with your thanks.

Everyone likes to be acknowledged for the nice things they do. Too often, good deeds go unnoticed or are taken for granted. Take today as a reminder to let the important people in your life know how they enhance it. You can even leave your message of gratitude on this post and tag the person you want to read it. You’ll be glad you do.

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