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Flattery: The Art of Praise

Published: July 28, 2022

"Heart Dessert" - Media From Mix

Nothing is sweeter than hearing a skillfully-crafted compliment — Indeed, love is to a rose as a compliment is to honey. In our modern, loneliness-inducing society, expressing our admiration and reverence for one another is critical. It is paramount that we elevate the spirits of one another with phrases and utterances honoring our talents, our virtues, our personhood. It is paramount that we take the initiative to illuminate the spirits of our brothers and sisters, as they are being weighed down by the pressures and insecurities of an increasingly isolated world. It is paramount that we compliment each other: liberally, grandly, and authentically.

Yet there is a difference between a sincere compliment, and one that is vapid and unsubstantial. Think about the last time you were profoundly touched by the gem-like words of a teacher, a friend, a family member. Think about the last time when a romantic partner dropped you a sweet everything that ensnared your heart and caused your eyes to shoot forth waterworks akin to the Bellagio Fountains in Vegas. Now recall the time when a fair-weather friend played the “You matter” card in response to you disclosing depression. Recall the time when a well-intentioned comrade praised you for a quality you knew you possessed not. Such is the difference between a proficiently formulated compliment and an elementary one. Ironically, the art of giving a heart-capturing, soul-rejuvenating compliment shares disturbingly similar principles with the art of winning a fight. The key is to study your opponent’s weaknesses, and target them with as many accurate, heavy-hitting blows as possible.

What are your opponent’s weaknesses, anyways? Essentially, an individual’s weaknesses are her values and the aspects of her identity that she treasures - for these areas are where a compliment will strike the hardest. For example, if singing is of almost no importance to someone’s identity, a compliment targeted at her vocal abilities is unlikely to elicit an effect. Conversely, if said individual is Chloe from Pitch Perfect (i.e. a cappella is her life), a singing-related compliment may as well be the equivalent of a liver punch in boxing: knocking the wind out of her insecurities and bringing her to her knees in euphoria. Succinctly speaking, you ought to go for the jugular if you desire to compliment someone to high heaven.

Of course, studying your opponent’s vulnerabilities is only one part of the equation. You also have to be knowledgeable on striking technique: namely learning to launch precise, bone-shattering compliments at your loved ones. To elaborate, let us rate every compliment on a scale of ten for accuracy, and on a scale of ten for power. Accuracy is the veracity of a compliment – with a zero being akin to pedestaling an amateur pianist as the next “Lang Lang” and a ten being akin to praising Michael Phelps’ swimming skills. Ultimately, it matters not how much force you concentrate into a punch, if said punch misses your opponent.

Power is a tad more complicated, but the gist is that power is how meaningful a compliment is to your recipient/opponent. Strong compliments strike at an opponent’s vulnerable spots, adorned with the eloquence and puissant vocabulary to breach them as forcefully as possible. Going back to the singing example, a zero would be the equivalent to saying “You sing nice” to someone who loathes singing, while a ten would be the equivalent of whispering to Chloe from Pitch Perfect that “her sublime voice has the ability to bring even the thickest-skinned soul to tears” and how “it would be a travesty to allow for her talents to be squandered”. Employing advanced adjectives such as “amazingly”, “exceptionally”, and “masterfully” when describing a person’s skills or talents will be more impactful than bland adjectives such as “good” or “nicely”. Well-placed metaphors are another effective way to quickly increase a compliment’s power score, such as comparing a wrestler’s strength to a hammer or a scientist's wit to the sharpest knife. Lastly, speaking in a confident tone when dishing out a compliment will further establish the gravity and authenticity of said compliment.

Now that we have established the definitions of accuracy and power in the context of compliments, let us evaluate each compliment on a scale from 0 to 100 using this formula:

Compliment Quality = (Accuracy) x (Power)

An intuitive, simple-yet-elegant formula. An eloquent yet insincere compliment will yield few points, for speaking of someone as “the epitome of proficiency, her dexterous hands flowing up and down the piano like a graceful waterfall” means naught if they haven’t even nailed “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on the keys. Similarly, complimenting an acclaimed, decorated novelist with a “You write nice” will also be of insignificant impact, for said compliment, even if true, possesses no bite and no substance. Both are examples of sweet nothings, or compliments scoring near a 0/100 on the scale.

Sweet everythings, on the other hand, are compliments both authentic and verbally profound, scoring near 100/100 on the scale. The compliment you received from a partner that caused a fountain of tears to gush forth from your eyes? Probably a triple-digit-banger. Launching multiple sweet everythings consecutively is how you emerge triumphant in a compliment war, or knock out a ride-or-die with strawberries and honey.

Of course, all of what I said is merely a crash course for those looking to become a compliment connoisseur. It takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, and it takes 10,000 compliments to master the art of complimenting those around you. So go forth, and compliment someone everyday – your family, your husband or wife, your friends, a stranger whom you always looked up to.

Knock 'em dead with kindness!

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