People often tell me that I’m generous with praise.

Hey, you’re doing an absolutely fantastic job of reading this blog post, by the way.

See, I know how to give an awesome compliment!

People’s assessment of my complimenting nature is either meant as critical feedback or it is an acknowledgement of how my enthusiasm for others contributes to thriving communities. Regardless of how my praise is interpreted, everyone agrees that I know how to give a compliment.

Whether praising your community means celebrating the latest chapbook from the Writers’ Exchange or high-fiving your awesome colleague because she found the solution to a complex problem, praise is far more effective than criticism when you want results from people. In fact, a recent article by Harvard Business Review’s Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman argues that praise should outnumber criticism by a ratio of 5 to 1 (technically, 5.6 to 1). Further, the Gallup Business Journal’s Brian Bim and Jim Asplund present compelling data that shows US employees are more engaged when their manager focuses on their strengths and positive attributes.

Praise is important. Compliments make people feel appreciated, good about themselves and committed to their community. So, here are some tips for giving the perfect compliment.

Be Authentic

You have to mean what you say because people are smart and your audience will see right through you if the compliment is a fake one. So, be sure that your praise comes from a genuine place.

Be Clear and Match Their Style

Some folks relish public praise and others prefer cards or emails over verbal compliments in front of other people. Before delivering a compliment be sure to understand the preferred medium of your audience. Once you’ve decided how your compliment will unfold, explain exactly why you are heaping on praise. For example, “I love how you always bring such healthy and interesting salads to work because it models great well-being practices” is a richer compliment than “your salads are awesome.”

Be Someone Who Actually Gives a Compliment

Sneaky people will try to cram criticisms into compliments. Please don’t do this. “I really like your sense of style! Your hat also covers up your bald spot, too.” This is what we call a backhanded compliment, meaning that it’s not a compliment at all. Let praise stand for itself and leave the critical feedback for performance reviews, breakups and re-enacting the very best of Seinfeld.

Be Timely

Have an exit strategy for your compliment and be concise. When singling someone out – especially if it is in front of other people – it is important to be short and sweet so that no one feels uncomfortable, especially the recipient. Recently, the managers in my organization honoured our team’s individual and collective efforts with short toasts that acknowledged specific accomplishments.

Be Able to Take a Compliment

Seriously. Be able to smile and say “thank you” – this can be hard. Personally – and incongruously – I love being the centre of attention, but don’t like being singled out for praise or compliments. So, honour the person giving you the praise that you deserve and keep it simple: say thank you, smile and keep being great!

As the Awesome Awards demonstrate, offering praise is important, exciting and, at times, a little tricky. With these simple tips, though, you will be able to compliment everything from a haircut to a lean business plan to a well-played game of tennis.

Now get out there and spread some community-building goodness with your compliments.

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