Abraham Lincoln said, "Everybody likes a compliment." This may be true, but chances are, if you had complimented Lincoln on his handsome looks, he would have smelled a rat. An inauthentic compliment is worse than no compliment at all. When complimenting an acquaintance, keep your compliments honest and you'll avoid a number of pitfalls.
Look your acquaintance in the eye when you give the compliment, advises etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts in the "Huffington Post." Doing so gives the compliment more impact and the appearance of sincerity.
Be specific. Instead of telling your acquaintance, "You have such interesting things to say," say, "That was such a thoughtful answer you gave to John. I thought it was fascinating." Doing so sends the message that you are paying attention and lets the person know exactly what impressed you.
Keep your compliment simple. In her book "Simply Charming: Compliments and Kindness for All Occasions," Christie Matheson notes that telling someone that she looks lovely is much more effective than going on and on and possibly sticking your foot in your mouth. For example, saying, "Your hair looks gorgeous" is better than saying, "I like your hair since you got it cut and colored. It looks so much better than it used to." The difference between these two statements may be between creating fond feelings and giving offense.
Use good timing. Telling your new co-worker that his sweater is gorgeous during a board meeting, for example, is distracting and will likely create an awkward moment. Telling him while you both walk to the break room for coffee, however, is the perfect time.
Give an extra boost to your compliment by saying it when other people are around. For example, "Wow, you do a perfect Jim Carrey impersonation. Have you guys seen this? It's amazing!" Even the most modest people enjoy getting kudos in front of their peers.
Stick to compliments that are genuine. Nothing feels more awkward than complimenting someone on her car because you can't think of anything else to say, and then feeling stupid as you try to come up with an authentic reason why you admire her 2002 Honda Accord.
Put the compliment in writing. Write a thank you note to your host for the dinner party and include the fact you were bowled over by his tiramisu. Use social media to compliment acquaintances. Write a note on an acquaintance's wall telling her you appreciated the points she made in the article she wrote or expressing admiration for a particularly artistic photo that she took.
- Simply Charming: Compliments and Kindness for All Occasions; Christie Matheson; 2012
- The Huffington Post: Giving and Accepting Compliments
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images