The Power of a Genuine Compliment

Do you experience a tinge of anxiety when recognizing a co-worker who had a positive impact on you?  Read on to learn tips for confidently giving compliments in a meaningful way. Nurses Professionalism Article


The Power of a Genuine Compliment

Recently, I received one of the best “feel good” compliments of my nursing career.  The compliment came from a co-worker during a long and chaotic workday.  Everyone has most likely received an authentic compliment that continued to resonate in their memory long after it was spoken. January 24th was National Compliment Day and if you missed it…don’t worry.  Every day presents a great opportunity to “pass it forward” and show support to someone else both in and outside of work.

Win-Win Benefits

Research has long shown that showing kindness to another person can improve our overall well-being.  Here are just a few of the benefits of giving or receiving recognition at work.

  • Provides an opportunity for you to see a situation or person in a less negative and more positive light.
  • You’ll become more grateful for what qualities and skills your co-workers contribute to the team.
  • Both you and the compliment receiver will experience a boost in confidence.
  • Your co-workers will see you as more trustworthy and approachable.
  • Helps you to overcome some of your own insecurities by recognizing good qualities in other people.  This comes full circle when you receive a compliment yourself.

Finally, a little positivity always goes a long way when working long days in a pandemic-stressed environment.

Facts About National Compliment Day

National Compliment Day1 was created in 1998 by Kathy Chamberlin, of Hopkinton, NH and Debby Hoffman, of Concord, NH.  They wanted a way to let the people in their lives know how much they appreciate them and they created this day to give them the opportunity. Here are a few other interesting facts about National Compliment Day:

  • According to Nick Haslam2, a professor at University of Melbourne’s School of Psychological Sciences, compliments enhance learning, persistence, engagement with tasks, and overall well-being.
  • World Compliment Day3 is celebrated in March of each year.
  • People who have low self-esteem may disregard compliments they receive because it contradicts how they feel about themselves.

Tips for Giving Genuine Compliments

Did you know that a fake compliment can actually have the opposite effect when compared to a heartfelt one?  If you're perceived as insincere, then your praise loses its intended purpose.  Here are a few guidelines to help avoid your compliment coming off as fake.

Be Authentic

One of the keys to giving a great compliment is to be genuine and sincere.  You can do this best in person by speaking in a meaningful tone of voice, making eye contact and smiling.  If your compliment is delivered through email or text, you can use first person to make it more personal.  For example, “I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your flexibility today when staff assignments were changed.”

Consider the Recipient

Be sure to consider a person’s role within the organization when complimenting a coworker.  Understanding their job role will guide you in determining how to professionally compliment them and what strength/skill to compliment them on.  Don’t forget your management team needs compliments too.  It’s also meaningful to think beyond the job and recognize important achievements in a co-worker’s personal life.  For example, going back to school, sending a child to college or participating in a marathon.

Remember People have different personalities and while some would love a public compliment, others may prefer to receive a compliment one-on-one.

Be Specific

Instead of vague compliments, get specific and tell someone exactly what they did to lift your spirits.  For example, “I wanted to take a minute to let you know how much I appreciate you coming in early for me today”.

The Compliment Checklist

Here is a simple checklist for you to consider before you share a compliment.  The more you practice using the checklist, the faster it becomes second nature.

Is  your compliment: Ask yourself:
Authentic "Why am I recognizing this person?"
Specific “What did I experience or observe?”
Considering the recipient “What is the person’s job role within the organization.”
Considering the impact “How did what they do positively impact me?”

Let’s Hear From You!

Have you received a compliment during your career that was especially meaningful?


1 National Compliment Day

2 Compliments Are Good For Your Health, But Not If They're Fake

3 World Compliment Day

30 Genuine Compliments to Give Your Co-Workers

How to Give and Receive Compliments at Work

Five Tips for Celebrating Positively on National Compliment Day

Giving compliments at work: 6 tips for a mental pat on the back


Experienced nurse specializing in clinical leadership, staff development and nursing education.

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Specializes in Education.

Oh Yes, I have received lots of compliments, but one that stood out came from a younger nurse who seemed to have a wrong impression of me. However, after a day or two of working together, she openly apologized and admitted that she thought I was unpleasant to work with, but she was so wrong. It was her best teamwork experience. It was an eye-opener as I never thought I seemed this way to people. We later became great colleagues and respected each other dearly. 

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hppygr8ful, ASN, RN, EMT-I

4 Articles; 4,907 Posts

Specializes in Psych, Addictions, SOL (Student of Life).

Psych is a particularly stressful environment and I always thank my staff at the end of a shift. I will also give positive comments to team members when they when they handle a situation well.


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