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Written by Anna Bartter

Have you ever wondered why being complimented feels so great? Anna Bartter looks into the brain-boosting power of a compliment.

There are few things in life as instantly mood-boosting as being complimented. As I was leaving the office last night, I told a colleague she was looking glamorous, and she instantly replied that she’d been admiring my earrings all day. It’s no exaggeration to say that my heart soared and I had a definite spring in my step as I grinned to myself on my walk home, buoyed by the lovely two-minute interaction.

When I got home, I wondered what it was exactly that fired me up so positively in that moment. Often, we’ll remember a flattering comment for years, bactrim de laboratorio roche demonstrating just how powerful they are. So what’s going on in our brains when we receive a compliment – and how can they transform our perceptions of ourselves?

Why do compliments make us feel so good? 

Mindset and confidence coach Amy Leighton says: “Receiving compliments makes us feel great, boosts our self-esteem and increases our self-confidence as they help us to see the positive things that are happening around us.”

The positive effects aren’t limited to the person receiving the compliment. Research shows that compliment-givers were in a better mood after delivering a compliment and reported they would be more likely to give a compliment to a stranger in the future.

Leighton agrees. “Giving compliments increases our gratitude towards certain situations, and seeing the positive effect of giving praise to someone else can, in turn, make us feel good too,” she says.

What happens in our brains when we receive a compliment?     

Basically, we get a brain-boost. Research shows that receiving a compliment activates the reward circuit in our brain, releasing a hit of the hormone dopamine, which is responsible for motivation, focus and productivity. Quite literally, it will create a natural high, and our brain responds by making us more likely to repeat the behaviour that prompted the kind words, creating a lovely, automatic self-fulfilling cycle.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo also discovered that the brain processes verbal affirmations in the same way as being rewarded financially, making people strive to do better. One professor said the study constituted “scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise.” He added: “There seems to be scientific validity behind the message ‘praise to encourage improvement’.”

How to pay a compliment 

My daughter cringes with embarrassment whenever I tell a stranger I love their outfit. And it’s certainly good to be aware of the etiquette around paying compliments, particularly in the workplace.

I tend not to think about it before I speak, and while it’s clear that some people are uncomfortable receiving compliments, I’ve never experienced a situation where I’ve regretted paying someone a compliment.

Consider more than just appearance

Meditation teacher Chloe Webster tells Stylist that the best compliment she ever received was someone saying “you have a really lovely presence”. 

“It came from a passing stranger and it’s a compliment I now give if it applies to someone,” says Webster. She likes it because “it doesn’t involve physical appearance, skill or talent. It’s complimenting someone on them just being themselves.”

Powerful stuff. Compliments also have the ability to transform how we see ourselves, as they can give us a different perspective.

Writer and business owner Ellie Kime says: “The best compliment I ever received was when I was describing myself as erratic. I was gently but firmly told that I wasn’t erratic but ‘energetic and full of life’, and though it sounds pretty banal, it was so affirming because it totally changed my perception of who I am and how I do things. What I’d previously viewed as a negative was actually being interpreted as a quality.”

Body language matters

It’s vital that whatever you’re saying is authentic and from the heart. Otherwise, there’s a risk you’ll come across as insincere or obsequious. Smile and make eye contact, and don’t overthink it. The best compliments are often an off-the-cuff “your hair is amazing!” rather than something you’ve been pondering for weeks.

Don’t be scared

Research shows that compliments generally make the recipient feel even better than the person complimenting them anticipates – so go for it.

How to take a compliment

As I’ve aged, my capacity to graciously accept a compliment has also grown. In my early 20s, my automatic response was to deflect and downplay the compliment by disagreeing, or saying: “What, this old thing?”

While this is a natural reaction, it can feel like a rejection to the person paying the compliment. So, try to take a moment to consider how you can be open to accepting the admiration.

Say thank you

If compliments leave you blushing and wanting to hide, practise saying a simple thank you, nothing more.

Return the compliment

If you’re still feeling embarrassed, try returning the favour. There’s bound to be something about the other person you can praise, and then the ball will be back in their court so you can relax.

It’s also been proven that behaviour that gets rewarded gets repeated. If we’re all more generous with our praise, this will have a snowball effect, leaving us all feeling more confident and positive about the world and our place in it. What’s not to love?

So, the next time you’re taken with someone’s outfit or energy, don’t be afraid to tell them. It might just make their day. 

Images: Getty

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