Modern Etiquette: Compliment or crawling? How to get it right

Mon May 3, 2010 9:29am EDT
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By Mary Mitchell

SEATTLE (Reuters Life!) - Whatever their subject - our svelte new figure, our rousing speech, our strong sales figures - compliments lift us, honor us, validate our choices and efforts -- as long as they are not seen as attempts to crawl into favor.

A compliment is a two-way gift that benefits the giver and receiver alike. Compliments are always socially proper, if sincerely extended and kept appropriate to the context, but in the workplace the giver needs to adhere to certain rules.

If someone looks great, tell him or her.

If someone is always efficient, acknowledge that.

Compliments can break the ice with a stranger, defuse stress, lift spirits, or tighten a bond.

The right words at the right time can motivate, comfort, reward, validate, and inspire.

Compliments are not the same as flattery. Flattery is insincere and excessive. Superfluous compliments are annoying and make others feel as though the giver were angling for something - as if the giver expected a receipt.

So what makes a good compliment? Here are the basics:   Continued...

<p>A boy shakes hands with a street performer during the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 7, 2008. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso</p>