Give Compliments Freely and Generously

By | December 2, 2020

[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:

  1. Enhance performance
  2. Boosts self-perception
  3. Improves workplace environment
  4. Affirm proper behavior
  5. 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.


  1. 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.
  2. Military awards and decorations have been known since ancient times. But it was Bonaparte that took the idea mainstream.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Give Compliments Freely and Generously

  1. Dead Pool Guy

    This should be a no-brainer but we must sometimes be reminded that the obvious is not so obvious. We need reminding sometimes how to be more human and giving compliments is one of those reminders. I will try today to consciously give more compliments to my family and others.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” by Mother Teresa
      My favorite quote of hers.

    2. Scotty Bush

      “One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.” This one is my favorite quote. Hits right on her main philosophy of life. The world is better off for her being here.

  2. Purse 5

    Loved your article, Gen. Satterfield. I just love your website too, not flashy at all.

  3. Jerome Smith

    Good points in your article, Gen. Satterfield. I think, just my opinion, that you should take on the “why” folks don’t give compliments (freely and generously) at all. Or why they don’t use compliments to make themselves more likable (something we should all strive to do and teach kids about).

    1. Fred Weber

      Good point, Jerome. I think this topic is a big one. But, IMHO, it doesn’t matter why but how to overcome it. Sure, understanding the why might be important but only as it relates to making sure we use compliments wisely – by that I mean properly – so that it has a positive impact.

    2. Jonathan B.

      Yes, good note Jerome. The why is less important than the how. Let’s all work toward using compliments more. Our lives will be better off for it.

      1. Honey Flower Betsy

        Yes, better off. I’m still new here but like this forums section because folks here seem to be caring and not crazy like so many websites I’ve been on.

  4. Valkerie

    Excellent article, General Satterfield. I like how you point out the benefits of compliments.

  5. Ronny Fisher

    Great advice. You would think folks understand and practice this daily but they don’t. We don’t even know how to take a compliment anymore. Why??

      1. Max Foster

        This is a great point, Albert. Common sense is no longer the way to look at things – at least according to the neo-Marxists that run much of our nation. Just look at our universities and now primary and secondary education. They are all in on Marxist utopia. Well, look how that worked out in the 20th century with 100 million deaths.

        1. Nick Lighthouse

          Wow, hard hitting on the leftists, the weak-kneed, pantywaisted, morons of the socialists and their neo-Marxist ilk that support them.


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