The word "complimentary" often means free. A complimentary breakfast is included with your hotel stay. A complimentary key chain is provided when you sign up for something. Tradeshows pass out complimentary gifts to those who stop by a vendor’s booth. Things appear free, but are they? Who pays for the complimentary items? You do at the hotel – it is hidden in your reservation fees. You pay for the key chains and freebies that you collect as they are worked into the pricing of the services or products you receive. There is no such thing as a free lunch, right?
Yet there is one complimentary item that costs nothing to give and is freely received.
How much do you compliment others? How often do you pass out a heart-felt appreciative word or two for what people do or the talent and character they bring to your team or effort? How many times in a day do you compliment your spouse, kids, coworkers, attendants, wait staff, helpers, and others? There really is an unlimited supply of opportunities to compliment every day.
We live in an age of talk TV where the talking heads seem to be yelling to see who can command the attention of the camera. The person who just keeps talking louder and longer takes over the conversation. And when that person has your attention, they start to degrade others for being incompetent, self promoting, or whatever else they may think is wrong with anyone but themselves.
This trend continues online. The most traveled blogs and most followed Twitter feeds seem to come from complainers. The rattle on about how some injustice has been foisted on them or others, how quality is lacking, how service is terrible, or whatever. The most promoted voices often seem to be the most cranky.
Moving away from this clattering negativism is sometimes hard. It is so easy to point out flaws and shortcomings. So easy to see and point out negatives and failings. Moving toward an appreciative attitude is needed.
It is not that hard to find something nice to say to others. Let’s take a typical situation and see how many opportunities there might be to compliment. You and a coworker decide to go to lunch. Your coworker offers to drive (Opportunity 1). When you arrive at the restaurant, someone holds the door open for you as you enter (2). The hostess seats you at a nice table and hands you the menus. The waiter comes to take your order and suggests some items that are specials. He takes your order and suggests that if you choose the item from the lunch specials, you get the same thing only cheaper (3). The waiter brings the food and it tastes great (thanks to the cook).
During lunch you discuss the latest project you have going at home. Your coworker offers to help you that weekend, if needed (4). He even gives you some advice on where you might find less expensive supplies (5). Lunch is over, and as you head back to the office your coworker notices you checking your smartphone emails and sighing. You tell him that the boss is breathing down your neck to get something done. He offers to help you (6). As you walk back to your desk someone comes up and “delivers” the prints that you sent to the plotter before lunch (7).
Seven chances to not only say a quick thanks, but also to tack on a compliment.
The Art of Complimenting Others
You could pass out a few compliments. It is very easy to do. A few quick words or even a long sentence can do wonders.
Compliment what people do for you. Mentioning specifics in a thank you makes it go farther than just a quick comment of thanks. Tell folks how what they have done helps you or relieves your workload. Tell them that having them assist (even in a small way) really helped get something done. “Thanks for bringing my plots. I appreciate your willingness to do that.” Circle back after an event and let someone know how they helped you. “Thanks for giving me that tip on where to get less expensive supplies. I saved enough to actually upgrade the quality of the items I was installing.”
Compliment people for who they are. Even better than complimenting people on what they have done, is complimenting them on who they are. It is their individual character and willingness to go farther that impacted you for the positive. Because who they are is more valuable than what they do, it sends a more positive message. Examples are: “You are always looking for better ways of doing things,” or “You always put in extra effort in research.” Get right down to the core traits and it is best.
Comliment on a skill. People have varying talents and they may not do anything for you directly, but they enhance the firm. Telling them “your ability to see clear patterns in this chaotic mess of numbers is very impressive” (which compliments a skill) goes even farther when coupled with a compliment on their character. “You are always choosing the best for the firm even if it means more work for you,” speaks to their self-sacrificing trait.
So come on, pass out a few freebies in the next few days. You encounter so many chances in just one day and you don't want to miss them. It not only makes others feel good, it makes for better relationships with everyone you encounter.