Something I don’t think we do enough of, in either our personal or professional lives, is to pay someone a compliment. I’m not just talking about a simple “Thank You,” although that probably wouldn’t be a bad place to start, but a genuine note of gratitude for a job well done. A compliment may sound like a trivial thing, but most people tend to respond to recognition as they like to know they are on the right track and their efforts are appreciated. If compliments are not forthcoming, people tend to believe they are simply being ignored or taken for granted.

When a compliment is given, it is typically delivered badly. Expressions like “Cool” and “Awesome” may seem clever, but are hardly an effective form of appreciation. A compliment comes from the heart, it is certainly not mechanical. It must be sincere and a true expression of gratitude. As such, there is no pat formula for giving a compliment. It may be something as simple as a plaque or an award, perhaps a bonus or gift, some sort of public recognition, or maybe nothing more than a sincere handshake and a few kind words like, “Well done.” Actually, it depends on the person; whereas some people thrive on kudos, others are more private and prefer anonymity. Some are confident enough to realize they have done a good job and simply derive pleasure from the work performed; these are the true craftsmen. So, a lot depends on the person to receive the compliment as well as the person who wishes to express his/her gratitude.

Perhaps the best type of compliment is one where the person isn’t expecting to receive it. In fact, it may seem a little more genuine and sincere coming from out of the blue. Let me give you an example, I recently sent a letter to Maria Shriver complimenting her on how well she handles herself as First Lady of California. As you probably know, she is a member of the Kennedy clan, well known for their liberal politics, but she is also married to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a confirmed Republican. She may not always agree with her husband’s politics, but she has always been there to support him and the people of her state. Regardless of her political agenda, which I personally differ with, she has always been a model of poise, dignity, and class. To me, she is a role model to be emulated regardless of your political persuasion. Consequently, I wrote and told her so. I don’t know if it is important for her to receive such a compliment as much as it was for me to say it as I believe it is necessary to recognize the integrity of role models, now more than ever. As First Lady, she may not carry the same authority as her husband, but I thought it was important to let her know that her actions do not go unnoticed or are unappreciated by the public.

Frankly, I do not understand why people are afraid of giving a compliment. If we feel it is necessary to criticize, we should also be prepared to compliment. Whereas one is typically negative and destructive, the other tends to be positive and constructive. Yet we feel more comfortable criticizing than complimenting. I’m not sure why. I’ll tell you this though, a compliment is neither corny or unhip. If done properly, not only is it the right thing to do, but it can actually work miracles as a simple form of encouragement. As the old saying observes, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.”

P.S. – I received a gracious letter from Maria Shriver thanking me for the courtesy, “I am truly honored to be serving as California’s First Lady and it can be very challenging juggling the many duties, as well as being a mother of four children. However, we are making a positive difference in the lives of many people and I am thrilled to be doing my part to help. Again, thank you for your very kind words.”

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s eBook (PDF), “The Bryce is Right! Empowering Managers in today’s Corporate Culture” (free DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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