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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

How to give a real compliment: appreciation vs evaluation [Wise Wednesdays]

Most people struggle to give meaningful compliments to others let alone themselves. It can feel uncomfortable and awkward.

I was speaking with a client who started to offer genuine compliments to his team once a day. Within a month, morale and performance improved with this simple intervention that cost him all of one minute of his day.

However, according to research, only 24% of people feel that they receive useful input from their bosses when they’ve done well beyond “Good job!”

So how do you make use of the art of the compliment to improve work culture and relationships?


The key to paying a genuine compliment is to focus on appreciation instead of evaluation.

Most compliments sound like evaluations and land like judgments, which can feel unpleasant.

A basic compliment can trigger our threat system because: 1) it activates our fear of visibility; 2) it activates our fear of being judged (for our performance/appearance).

To avoid this, try the following approach:

1) Identify what specifically caught your attention or what landed well with you (what)

2) Explain why it stood out or why you appreciated it (why)

3) Ask a follow-up question (how)


Instead of saying,

"That was a great presentation!" (which is evaluative),


"I really appreciated the way you presented the cardiac mortality statistics (what). It drove home the extent of health inequalities in the capital’s hospitals (why). How did you manage to get hold of all that rich data? (how)” (which is appreciative).

When you use this approach, the recipient will feel a sense of sincere interest and admiration, creating a meaningful connection.

And here's a bonus tip: You can also ask people a question the next time they pay you a compliment about your work.

Ask them to say a little more by asking them why they liked what you did or said; what was truly useful or valuable to them?

Although it may feel a little strange at first, it opens the conversation, creates the possibility of a genuine connection and provides valuable information on your skills and talents, which is essential in upleveling your career and leadership.

Have a great week.


p.s. Join me for the first in-person event since the pandemic - a Leaders Circle focused on amplifying your influence without manipulation. Spaces are limited to ensure an intimate experience, and bookings have already started coming in. Secure your spot now and join us on June 3rd in London by booking here >>

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