A single compliment can make someone’s entire day.
This verbal form of expressing kindness is so powerful that it can spark a new friendship or a romantic relationship. Giving someone a compliment can erase their sadness within seconds. It can make them forget about the pain for a little while, and boost their confidence in the most genuine way.
However, even though we are aware of the undeniable power of compliments, we often go through our daily lives without taking the time to express our admiration towards others. You may think to yourself that your new coworker’s hair looks amazing today, but you hesitate to tell them. Or perhaps you have noticed your friend’s lovely home garden that they put so much effort into creating, but you just can’t find the words to express what an incredible job they have done.
But why do we keep our appreciative thoughts about others to ourselves? Are we scared of their reaction, or have we forgotten how to be kind?
As Psychology Today reveals, experts at the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University have analyzed our tendency to shy away from complimenting others, especially people we don’t personally know.
The specialists asked participants to approach a person matching their own gender and give them a specific compliment. At first, the researchers told them exactly what kind of positive remark they should make. Later in the study process, the respondents were given the freedom to choose the compliment they want to give.
Furthermore, the experts observed how the participants felt before approaching someone to compliment them. They looked through the emotional effect the giver thought their remark would make, and the actual emotional effect it triggered. Additionally, they asked a person, unrelated to the respondents, to imagine the way someone would feel after receiving a compliment from a stranger.
The experts found that we avoid complimenting others because we misjudge how they would react.
“Our studies suggest that people misestimate their compliments’ value to others, and so they refrain from engaging in this prosocial behavior.”
In other words, we undervalue the power of compliments.
According to the researchers, the emotional effect we believe our positive remarks would have usually has nothing to do with how the person we compliment truly feels. So, unaware of the actual uplifting effect our compliments have, we hold back from saying them out loud.
In fact, one participant in the study, who was on the receiving side, said something truly heartwarming after being complimented:
“Thanks for making my day more human!”
But what makes us underestimate the value of compliments?
The experts note that our misjudged estimation of the influence of the compliments we give is affected by our tendency to feel anxious about the way the other person would react. This nervousness blurs our perception and makes us believe that verbally expressing our admiration towards someone would be too awkward to handle.
However, the study proves that not only a compliment lifts the receiver’s mood, but it improves our own state of mind as well.
Of course, there were exceptions. For instance, some participants believed that their compliments would make a wonderful impression, while they actually did quite poorly. Still, the main focus of the research leads to one valuable message:
“We all have a powerful tool of human good will at our disposal, words of genuine and thoughtful appreciation that take just a few moments to give.”
Hopefully, the next time you notice something nice about someone, whether it’s a friend, a coworker, or a stranger, you won’t hesitate to compliment them. If you do have reservations, imagine yourself on the other side.
Wouldn’t you love to receive a genuine remark from someone else? Wouldn’t you appreciate the fact that someone sees you? Of course, you would. Others would too. Keep that in mind.