“This Is What Happens When You Abuse Compliments” – Negotiation Insight

“Compliments like smiles wear off if extended too long.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“This Is What Happens When You Abuse Compliments”

“You know what he was saying, right?” “He was complimenting me,” was the response. To which the retort was, “he said, you looked interesting, as a black man in a gold Mercedes. He wasn’t complimenting you. That was mockery! What did he want from you? I’m sure he was trying to persuade you to do something.”  

Even if unintended, compliments tend to persuade the receiver to adopt a particular view of the sender. And in most situations, that opinion tends to be favorable. Even when an insidious compliment comes from an opponent, it can shift the trajectory of the interaction. Thus, with the best of intent, if you abuse the usage of complements, they can produce more harm than good. 

Here’s what to consider when complimenting someone – especially if you don’t want to incur a backlash.


Listen to what you’re hearing, and for what’s not said. That means, to understand the intent of the compliment better, seek to glean insight by observing the sender’s body language and other nonverbal cues. As an example, if the praise was about you, as the black man and the gold Mercedes, you might have detected the tone of the accolade, body language gestures that accompanied it, and any statements made immediately after that. That degree of awareness would have increased your intuition from which to assess the intent and sincerity of the compliment. After that, if you thought it was a mockery, you might have pushed back on its genuineness, or sought clarification about its intent.

If you compliment someone, and you sense they misperceive it, don’t offer another one to bolster the one before it. Make your sincere intent known about the initial one you made. If you don’t do that, you’ll continue slipping down a slope that could pull you deeper into a chaotic mess of unbelievability about your future compliments.

Tip – When in question, always listen intently to how something’s said, the body gestures and sounds that accompany it, and what precedes and follows it. By doing so, you’ll be able to discern better the intent of the words spoken. 

Abuse of Compliments

Another concern to be mindful of, as the sender or receiver of compliments, is its frequency. If you’re overly infusive with your compliments, it can make you appear as though you may be ‘sucking up’ to someone. To that end, you should understand the personality of the individual to whom you’re complimenting. Some people don’t like the attention to themselves that compliments bring.

If you’re on the receiving end of compliments, once again, understand their intent. Question their validity, what the intention is to make you feel or do, and where the sender may be going with them. While some people are genuinely pleased about an aspect of your being, which causes them to extend a compliment to you, some know how to use tributes as a sly form of manipulation. If there’s any manipulation to occur, you should be the dapifer that determines when it happens. The point is, control all attempts when someone is attempting to manipulate you!

Suffice it to say, if you compliment someone, you should know the purpose of it, and so should the person to whom you give a compliment. The assessment and balance of your interactions and relationship will hang on that scale.

Complimentary Points To Consider

To give a compliment that has more pizzaz, consider these factors.

  1. The more they address specific characteristics a person possesses, the higher the chance of it having a more impactful impression.
  • Try to avoid compliments that speaks to someone’s physical appeal. If they possess a physical trait that’s genuinely appealing, they’ve more than likely heard what you’re saying from other people, which will lessen your compliment. Instead, focus your praises on their achievements and/or something about their demeanor that’s pleasing to you.
  • When giving a compliment, highlight someone’s strengths. While you might say, “don’t worry, you’re getting better.” An endearment such as that can ring hollow. Instead, you might say, “you have improved significantly!” That type of statement has more energy in it, and it’s more uplifting.


When extending praise, understand your intent, which means have a purpose in mind for why you’re offering it. It’s okay to compliment someone with a sincere intent in mind. Just be sure that they perceive it as such. If you sense that they don’t, make your meaning known by stating your intention and rectifying any ambiguity. The better you become at providing perceived sincerity when complimenting someone, the more the receiver will be enriched by them. That will bode well for you, your communication abilities, and the enhancement of your persona.

It’s always nice when you can genuinely compliment someone. Delivered and perceived in the right way, both you and the other person will get a good feeling stemming from your graciousness. And everything will be right with the world. 

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://anchor.fm/themasternegotiator

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Sunday Negotiation Insight” click here https://www.themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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