Brenda Etzkorn is a “glass half-full” kind of person.

Etzkorn, office manager at Hart Funeral Home, strongly believes in and enjoys giving – and receiving – compliments.

“I like to give compliments,” said Etzkorn. “When you give someone a compliment, it makes both of you feel good – and you never know, it may be the only nice thing that person hears all day.”

National Compliment Day, Jan. 25, was founded in 1998, and is the brainchild of Kathy Chamberlin and Debby Hoffman, personal growth consultants. The two authored the book “Find Something Nice to Say: The Power of Compliments,” and recommend people give away five compliments per day.

“Compliments are a simple, yet powerful, relationship-building tool,” said Chamberlin on the pair’s Web site, “There are many different reasons to give a compliment. The most compelling - it makes you feel good. You cannot give a sincere compliment without feeling great.”

Bob Ed Culver, retired state legislator and funeral director, stresses the timing of compliments.

“You should compliment a person at the time you recognize they do something good,” said Culver. “One shouldn’t wait until the eulogy to praise a person.”

According to Mark L. Knapp, in an article in “Psychology Today,” compliments must be sincere, or the giver faces a possible negative reaction.

“We may react negatively if we think a compliment has been delivered insincerely or that we are being set up to do something we don’t want to do,” said Knapp. “We usually don’t appreciate getting praise from someone we think lacks intelligence or taste.”

Culver believes in giving praise, but for specific reasons.

“You should compliment a person whenever they genuinely do something good for someone or something,” said Culver.

Knapp cites overuse of compliments as the reason for many people being put off by praise.

“Most letters of recommendation, for example, are overwhelmingly complimentary,” said Knapp. “That both cheapens the praise and makes it difficult to decide what is true and what is untrue.”

Connie Schlittler, executive director of Bill Willis Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Center, believes in passing out praise regularly.

“Sometimes I think I give compliments too freely,” said Schlittler. “But it’s important to me to praise people and let them know I recognize their value.”

Accepting compliments seems to be more difficult for most people than giving them. Learning to accept a compliment graciously allows both people to feel good, even though many people have been conditioned to dismiss them.

“People who can’t accept a compliment do so by deflecting the compliment, downgrading the compliment, or transferring the credit,” said Chamberlin. “It’s usually done by saying something like ‘Oh, this old thing! I bought it on sale for $2.95,’ or ‘It was just luck.’

“When you do this, not only do you deny your own enjoyment of the compliment, you rebuff the person giving it to you,” said Chamberlin.

Culver thinks people are too engrossed in their own daily lives to give and accept compliments appropriately.

“Lots of times, people are just too busy to consider other peoples’ welfare,” said Culver.

Schlittler recommends people keep a journal of compliments.

“I really think people should write compliments they receive down in a journal,” said Schlittler. “Getting people to give compliments to themselves is also very important. You can facilitate that by praising their work and then saying something like, ‘That must have been difficult. How did you do that?’ A lot of times, they’ll admit what they did was really a challenge and they’ll feel a sense of success.”

In Knapp’s article, sociologists Ronny Turner and Charles Edgely found that similarity in age, status, and to a lesser extent, gender and closeness of relationships, played a part in the believability of a compliment.

“When, for example, we divided younger compliment givers and receivers into younger groups, 10 to 29 years old, and older, 30 and up, we found that younger givers directed 77 percent of their compliments at younger people, while the older givers directed 74 percent of their compliments to people in their own age group,” said Turner.

The study revealed the same outcomes with status. The person giving the compliment was of equal status with the receiver 71 percent of the time, of higher status 22 percent of the time, and lower in status only 7 percent of the time.

In addition, women and men were equally likely to give compliments.

“Men were equally likely to praise members of both sexes, while women complimented other women more than they did men,” said Turner. “We also found a strong relationship between the sex of the receiver and types of compliment given. Women were much more likely - 78 percent - to receive appearance compliments than men - 22 percent, but there was almost no difference between the sexes with regard to performance and personality compliments.”

Accepting praise graciously

According to personal growth consultants Kathy Chamberlin and Debby Hoffman, accepting a compliment graciously takes two words: Thank you. Another option is to come up with a few other responses you could become comfortable with, such as:

• What a nice compliment! Coming from you, I consider that high praise.

• That’s the nicest think anyone has said to me today.

• I didn’t know it showed. Thank you for telling me.

• Thank you. I really appreciate hearing that.

• Thank you. I like them, too. They were a gift and mean a lot to me.



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