[December 2, 2020] Is this good advice? Of course, it is. The problem is that we generally ignore it. An old psychology professor I especially liked told me that we could analyze the human mind all our lives, but the easiest way to get to know a person’s heart is through a simple compliment.
“Give me enough ribbons to place on the tunics of my soldiers, and I can conquer the world.” – Napoléon Bonaparte
Say what you will about Napoléon Bonaparte, in his conquests or his role as Emperor of France, yet he was one of the most outstanding leaders in the early 19th century.1 He understood motivation. He knew that to reward his soldiers meant it to be a powerful motivator.2
The link between leadership and motivation is well known. In the U.S. military, we study motivation and how it makes a difference in carrying out our duties. Compliments are part of our studies. We learned that a compliment goes further (is remembered longer) and has a greater impact than criticism.
“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in the world than for bread.” – Mother Teresa
Compliments are powerful. In my Introductory Psychology course, I learned that a behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated. Social psychologists call this the norm of reciprocity; when humans receive a favor, they feel a sense of obligation to return that favor.
Practically speaking, here is what a compliment can do:
- Enhance performance
- Boosts self-perception
- Improves workplace environment
- Affirm proper behavior
- Elicit goodwill toward the giver
There is something that should be added at this point. Compliments are not flattery. Although they look alike, the difference lies in the giver. A flatterer gives to get. A complimenter gives to give. Anyone offering a sincere compliment will not be a flatterer.
On a side note, I read several popular articles about giving compliments. I did so to make sure I wasn’t missing anything important. One article I found interesting was titled “7 Types of Compliments Men REALLY Want To Hear,” by John D Moore.3 Wow, this person gets it. I recommend the article.
- Bonaparte was one of the first military commanders that used patriotism as a powerful motivational tool, created great European alliances, raised France to its greatest point in history, and introduced meritocracy to governance.
- Military awards and decorations have been known since ancient times. But it was Bonaparte that took the idea mainstream. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_awards_and_decorations