The Lost Art Of Giving A Great Compliment – And How To Do It Right!

I’m kind of a movie-fanatic. Anyone who comes to my live events will know that I love dissecting even the tiniest moments from films to draw profound lessons.

And today, I want to use one my favourite film moments to ask you this question: How good are you at giving compliments?

The art of giving a great compliment is a tragically under-appreciated skill. Most people use compliments as meaningless flattery, or they just use generic phrases like “you’re so sweet”, “you’re really great” or “thanks, you’re so lovely”. These phrases, while they are all nice to hear, are completely forgettable.

Think of the compliments you have cherished from people you love in life. Usually it’s because they told you something about yourself and you just thought: they totally understand me. Or when someone told you something about yourself that you weren’t even aware of.

Take a look at the video below to see one of the greatest on-screen compliments ever uttered. It’s from the film As Good As It Gets.

It’s a breathtaking moment. Melvin (Jack Nicholson) finally tells Carol (Helen Hunt) what makes her the greatest woman on earth to him.

We all go through life never really telling people the best things about them. This might be with our friends, parents, and our love lives. What makes someone else feel special (and see us as special), is when they feel like we understand them on a level that no-one else does. Even if when you’re dating a guy you say “I really like the way you’re so considerate of other people. You always want everyone to feel good before yourself. I really admire that about you.”

Compliments like these (as long as they are true!) will resonate with someone, because they see that you are someone who notices the small actions they do everyday.

So my tip for today is to give better compliments. And for that you’re going to need some principles for doing it right. So here are three:

1. Always be specific

Just telling someone they are sexy is okay, but it’s kind of generic and impersonal. Tell them why they are sexy, or kind, or great fun, or whatever it is you want to say about them. If you want to tell a guy he is cute, tell him something specific about his looks, like “I love the little dimples on your cheeks when you smile.”

2. Focus on the little things

Compliments don’t have to be huge. The most meaningful ones can come from tiny things we do everyday. Maybe it’s saying “You make the best coffee in the world”, or “I love talking to you over breakfast. You always make me feel like I can really be myself around you.”

3. Make sure they are accurate

Don’t pull compliments out of thin air. Really think about the person you are talking to and what makes them great. Even if it’s someone you’ve known for a few weeks, you could just say what makes them so fun to be around. Is it their spontaneity, their kindness, their curiosity about the world?

What are some of the compliments that have stuck with you over the years? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below!

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55 Replies to “The Lost Art Of Giving A Great Compliment – And How To Do It Right!”

  1. Matthew, this is just what I needed today!! Thank you so much! :)
    I was just thinking these days about the guy I’m currently dating, what compliment to give him – and the first thing that came into my mind was that he does not judge people. I SO LOVE that kind of people! And that’s why I’m always relaxed with him. :)
    And his clothes always smells so nice – I have to ask him what kind of fabric softener he uses. ;)

    You made my day with this great post, thank you!! x

  2. you’re right dear Mathew! Ill add this to my “daily tasks”…:) Thank you for helping us to have a wonderful life,thank you for all your magic and blessed advices.
    keep doing what you do!

  3. Hi Matt

    Wow this is beautiful, it put the hugest smile on my face and brought tears to my eyes!

    I’ve met a guy recently and I really like the way he makes me feel.

    This is wonderful advice thank you – it allows me to really consider why he does and to tell him – so far he is very attentive and sensitive to my needs and desires, ands not afraid to meet them. He makes me feel a little challenged yet comfortable and beautiful; he brings out a shy confidence and freedom to express my beautiful self, and I really like it!!!

    As for you … I love a man -anybody!- who really see’s and gets the little yet profound messages life is giving them, then shares them with the world to better the quality of peoples lives – to share the love :). Your opening sentence grabbed me completely and shows that you are beautifully passionate about what you do. I admire this deeply and am so grateful for having you in my life. I aim to be as inspiring as you are, and to be a part of healing the relationships we have with eachother the way you do. :)

    Thanks Matt .. you tha bomb!!!

    Love Caroline x

  4. This is really true. The impact of a genuine compliment can last a lifetime, helping people remember who they are during difficult times.

  5. Matthew, I love the way you give the impression the big questions which have flumoxed humans since the dawn of time, does he? will he…? and so forth, can be easily, almost effortlessly resolved, with the application of a method. True or not, it is reassuring and makes you so very comforting to listen to. Your sticky out ears are really cute, too. :)
    Have a happily memorable day,
    Jess

  6. Thank you for this eye opener I always give compilement but I never really be exact it was always just the normal everyday ones like thank, you look nice. But I know understand I can be more polite.

  7. This is just what I needed to read. For whatever reason I never know what to say around people that i truly like and I end up with the label “egocentric”.
    I read about the power that nice words can have on someone and i experienced that before. It is amazing how “wow, that lipstick looks fabulous on you” can turn the lady at the supermarket in a friend that won’t let you buy something if she knows is something wrong with it. And also “what a great smile you have” can make the nastiest start of a day in an amazing one. But I have to learn to tell nice things to the persons that I care about. For whatever reason i just get the feeling that they know it and I find it awkward to say it.
    Maybe the guy that I like needs to find out how I wait for those mornings when I meet him in the gym, how he makes my day when he compliments me, how his smile makes me smile and how I like talking to him just because he is such an interesting, smart,kind and generous person. But..I have to also face my shyness.
    So baby steps for now. I’ve just called my mum to tell her how much I love her just because she cares about me unconditionally.
    Thank you Matt for this incredible article!

  8. I wanted to check out your home study programme ‘The Man Myth’, but the link didn’t work :(

    My compliment to him: You are strong in being patient and fair. But very often I witness that in your decisions mercy plays a far more important role than fairness.
    I admire that.

  9. This is really great advice, thank you! I can’t count how many times I’ve been given generalized compliments by the guys I’ve dated, giving compliments is definitely an under-appreciated skill! I just came up with compliment I can give to one of the guys I’ve been dating:
    I love that you’re committed to your music. When you sing, I can tell that you’re passionate about it, and that is so amazing because most people aren’t passionate about anything. I like being around passionate people who truly commit to what they love. :)

  10. Thank you Matthew, it’s been a long time since I’ve watched movies, but you know, it’s awesome what they can teach us a lot of times, and kudos to you for spotting it!! ^_^

    I like a guy atm, but be has said before that he didn’t think we were compatible even though our colleagues thought we were. But I guess I’ve forgotten how to do compliments as well after a while.

    I am working on my life atm, being the best that I can possibly be, and talking to more men as you suggested and am getting really comfortable with them, that it seems that I’m able to make them smile. So I’ll continue working on it :)

  11. I just want to say thank you Matthew. I have read and signed up for emails from several different relationship experts over the last few months, and I have to say your blog and your emails are so refreshing. I can tell you are passionate about genuinely helping people. Your messages always contain helpful information for everyone and do not just allude to the “secrets” to making your life or relationships better to sell your programme or someone else’s book. I love that about you! Your emails are the only ones I did unsubscribe from and as. Participant in your online program, I have found your material more useful and uplifting than anything else I’ve tried. Thanks and kudos to you and your team for helping me to be a better and more informed person.

  12. This is exactly what I need.

    Thanks for another awesome article Matthew. If I eventually got married with my dream guy, I would definitely invite u to the wedding :).

  13. Actually, I stay with my guy because he gets and accepts all my different personality quirks…including the things that can sometimes be negative…he gets that women can sometimes be as open-eyed as men when it comes to sex…and he doesn’t think it’s bad..just appreciates being kept in the loop if I see a guy I think is hot, etc…sure, he’ll tease the hell out of me about it, but he doesn’t get rankled and angry and jealous..

  14. Thank you for another great post! I’ve been wanting to know how to compliment a man, or anyone really.

    Great advice. However, I find that a lot of men don’t know how to take compliments. (Perhaps because women rarely gives them?) For example, I would often tell my male friends when they have nice hair. I know they love it, but instead of saying “Thank You”, they would reject it (with giggles), “Are you joking? Is that a joke?” or “My parents are old fashioned Scottish, they hate when my hair is messy.” (giggle some more)

    I love a man with widow’s peak like Matthew’s. (You’re rocking great hair!) I always tell a man to grow his hair slightly and sweep it up to show it off. It’s amazing how much they love to hear it. I suppose it says that I notice things about him?

    1. Hi Adora,
      The reason men and women “don’t know how to take a compliment” is because they don’t feel worthy and lack self-esteem. Don’t blame yourself. The man you can accept your compliment can also accept you as a woman.
      AM

  15. Thank you for this really good advice. I have never actually thought about this. I think I have given compliments but have not been able to be specific or unique enough to make a lasting impression. I am definitely going to think about these “rules” when giving compliments to my loved ones. I also wish I’d get better at recieving compliments. Maybe that will happen as I get better at giving them.

  16. Thanks for this. You are so right the art of giving great compliments is fading, fast. ( am afraid am not helping with keeping it alight). Hopefully now I shall be able to give compliments well.
    The compliment that stuck with me the most was that I was inspiring because, despite all the negatives that come with having OCD I still find a way to see the postives in the world. Not sure if it stuck with me because its a lovely complimnet or because it came from a guy I liked.
    PS Looking forward to seeing what other ways you are changing the world in the form of a blog. :D

  17. Wanted to respond to a comment about your ears –

    Always thought you had great ears – they are perfectly balance to go with your face!

  18. I have to say that I have always been a big giver of compliments, even to strangers (when I was working in retail, I once told a woman I was serving that she had the most beautiful hair). I tell my boyfriend how amazing he is all the time and how truly unique he is and all the things that are special about him and he does the same for me.

    One thing that you didn’t touch on however, is how bad people are at receiving compliments, maybe that is something you could cover in another blog. I think as humans we have come to expect the worst of people a lot of the time and due to low self esteem or lack of confidence, we are very good at dismissing praise, not only does it make the reciever feel uncomfortable but it undermines the sincerity of the giver!

    Maybe it’s as simple as being comfortable with who we are!?

    Anyway, enough of my musings….great clip Matt, it brought a tear to my eye and as a fellow movie buff, I’m definitely going to watch that in full.

    Thanks once again for an insightful blog, they’re always a joy to read.

    Jo x

  19. Matthew I really love this advice. I guess I never really noticed how insincere people can be when giving compliments until I read this. Mostly because I’ve always tried to surround myself with very genuine people, so I don’t often encounter this myself.

    Personally I have always worked really hard to let the people in my life know how I feel about them, because I know in truth how short and fragile life and relationships both can be.

    So Matthew, even though I don’t know you personally, here is my compliment for you, because we can all use a few every now and then.
    I love how much you care about people. I know that what you do, to most may be just a job, but to you, I can tell it is much more. You sincerely care about the people that you work with. You want nothing more than for them to get out of their own way and allow themselves the love they deserve in their lives. It is highly commendable to see someone use their talents of perception in such a way as to aid others rather than take advantage of them. Keep up the good work, and may you help and touch many more lives, for they are all blessed to have the opportunity to meet you.

  20. That compliment by Jack was intense because it WAS NOT even about her looks…. Most men seem to be unable to see women unsuperficially unless they are mainly solid friends.

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