Compliments are Complementary to Wellbeing

January 25, 2016

Who knew that January 24 is a National Compliment Day? Seriously? There seems to be a National or a World Day for pretty much everything. Compliments? Do we need a day for polite expression of praise, admiration, and congratulations? Kathy Chamberlin, of Hopkinton, NH and Debby Hoffman, of Concord, NH created this day in 1998, so apparently they thought so. I don't know who these women are or what propelled them to initiate this National Day, but I was curious enough to pause and consider compliments.

  • It is no surprise that people like when others are nice to them. But why do compliments make one feel good? Research suggests that compliments activate the same region of the brain, the striatum, as cash does, and both encourage people to perform better ( One of the study authors states, "To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money. We've been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise. There seems to be scientific validity behind the message 'praise to encourage improvement.' " Now imagine all the far-reaching implications of this across settings... complimenting employees at work... your partner... your children... your parents... your friends... and still holding on to your cash! That's science for you!

  • Compliments are most meaningful to the giver and the receiver when they are genuine! The more specific they are, the better. For example:

  • Complimenting your coworker – Mary, you are always on top of having all the materials ready for the meetings and I do appreciate it!

  • Complimenting your friend – John, seeing how you maintained your patience through your daughter’s temper tantrum was really inspiring!

  • Complimenting your significant other – Honey, I really appreciate you making me my favorite tea in my favorite cup with the right amount of honey. Thank you for being so thoughtful!  

  • Complimenting your child – Wow! That’s a huge improvement in math scores! Way to go! You worked so hard!


  • Giving a genuine and meaningful compliment is an art, and so is receiving one! Unless a compliment is totally inappropriate, the polite thing to do is to smile and say thank you! Don’t negate it, minimize, or ignore it! Don’t make a bigger deal of it than necessary either!


  • Compliments are not only good for the receiver, but carry benefits for the giver as well. Acts of kindness activate regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust, thus creating a “warm glow” effect.

Do you desire that warm glow? Go ahead! Give a compliment! It will make both you and the receiver feel better!



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