How to Be Sincere With Compliments

Sincere compliments are genuine, specific and direct.
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Sincere compliments come from the heart and genuinely reflect your true feelings. A heartfelt comment about your mother's new auburn hair color, or an honest question about where your friend found her stylish new boots, both reflect pure intentions. Compliments that are genuine are given without the expectation of anything in return and never leave the listener wondering what you meant. Those who receive sincere compliments always feel good as a result.

1 Have No Agenda

The key to offering sincere compliments is to speak from the heart without any premeditation about what you want to happen as a result of your compliment. For example, telling a friend that you admire his new leather jacket is fine -- as long as it isn't just a ploy to borrow it in the near future. Although you might be genuinely expressing your admiration for his clothing choice -- your intentions are not to compliment but to acquire something for yourself. Sincere compliments don't leave the other person wondering what you want.

2 Be Specific

Compliments that are too general or vague can leave the other person feeling as though you don't really mean it. For example, telling a date that she "looks great," might leave her wondering what you liked -- and probably won't stay with her as long as a more specific compliment. Get more in depth -- pick out an item of clothing, a physical attribute -- or go even further and compliment a personality trait. Tell your date that she has a Julia Roberts mega-watt smile or a comedic wit akin to that of Tina Fey, and the comment will have a lasting impact.

3 Don't Delay

Timing is everything, particularly when it comes to sincere compliments. If a good thought about a classmate pops into your head, don't delay in passing the message along to the intended recipient. Think of an audience that laughs right after a comedian tells a joke -- the immediate reaction is a sign that the laughter is genuine. If instead there is a long pause, followed by a bit of goading by the person on stage, the impact is lost. A compliment always appears more genuine when it is offered in good time.

4 Don't Offer a Double Edge

Sincere compliments never involve a negative overtone. Sharon Anthony Bower and Gordon Bower, authors of "Asserting Yourself: A Practical Guide for Positive Change," admonish the use of "double-edged compliments" -- those bits of praise that are quickly followed by a statement that virtually destroys any positive intent. The authors cite examples such as, "This cake tastes good. Is it a box cake?" and "Your hair looks nice. Is it a wig?" Take care to avoid tacking on statements like these to the end of your compliments. Sincere praise never involves indirectly putting someone else down.

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.