How to Give Compliments When You Feel Awkward

Genuine compliments don't have to be awkward.
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Your best friend is wearing a new outfit you adore, but you feel awkward telling her how great she looks. You've never tasted such divine chicken parmigiana, but you can't tell your dad how much you appreciate the meal. Sometimes, it’s awkward giving a compliment. Maybe, it's because you don't know what to say, don't feel that the recipient will appreciate the compliment or maybe you're shy. If you find yourself holding back from giving a genuine compliment -- don't. You should always voice a sincere compliment, no matter how awkward it feels. Everyone appreciates praise and your compliment might brighten someone's day.

1 Live in the Present

We all have thousands of thoughts that flit through our minds. When you notice a positive thought about someone else -- share it with her. Some people are shy, which prevents them from living in the moment, says Indiana University Southeast Bernardo J. Carducci, Ph.D., in the "Psychology Today" article, "The Cost of Shyness." If this is you, start thinking more about the present and less about the past and future. Though this process is not easy and you will not change overnight, if you make an effort to be present and not judge yourself, it will become easier to give compliments.

2 Be Sincere

Sometimes, we worry that the other person might not receive our compliments well. You might think your friend will be embarrassed if you tell her that outfit is fantastic; or, maybe your dad will think you’re sarcastic about his great parmigiana. A person with low self-esteem is likely to reject a compliment, according to psychologist Guy Winch, in "Why Some People Hate Receiving Compliments," but most people will be happy to receive your praise. The best compliments are sincere, simple and specific, according to the Grand Valley State University article, "The Art of Giving Feedback and Compliments." If you have a genuine compliment to express to someone, don’t feel awkward -- regardless of the outcome. Compliments given without expecting anything in return are always worth sharing.

3 Send it in Writing

If you feel awkward about sharing a compliment in person or if the setting isn’t right, send a written note. It is best to give a compliment in person and in a timely manner. When you take that first bite of your dad’s parmigiana, that's the moment to tell him that it was the best you’ve ever had. There are some situations, however, in which a written compliment makes sense. If a fellow classmate wrote a gripping account of his three-month exchange to France, send him an email and tell him how much you loved his story. If your Aunt Diane sent you an amazing hand-knit sweater for Christmas, send her a handwritten note complimenting her work. If you are feeling awkward about giving a compliment in person, consider whether the written word would serve the same person just as well.

4 Avoid Awkward Compliments

If you're feeling awkward about giving a compliment, you don’t want to make it worse by saying something inappropriate. In the "Psychology Today" article, "9 Types of Compliments and Why They Work (Or Not)," Susan Krauss Whitbourne advises against several types of "bad" compliments. Whitbourne suggests that you first make sure that what you are about to say is appropriate and not easily misunderstood. For example, saying to your dad, "You never make meals this tasty" implies that his cooking skills are not up to par. Telling your friend that she "looks better" in her outfit sends the message that she doesn't usually look good. Take care to think about the words that you are using to give a compliment -- and make sure the recipient will take your words the right way. If you follow this advice, your compliments will be less awkward, and you won't have to worry as much about how they will be received.

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.