The compliments that Americans appreciate

6 April 2021 by Marjoleine van Sinderen, 4c Unity

Americans give compliments

Perhaps more often and at different times than you do. How does their ‘good job!’ feel to you? Is it ok or or is it something that just comes with them? Do you recognize yourself in the following responses: “If it’s genuine, it’s uplifting”. “They make you feel good, but it is not always lasting”. “It feels uncomfortable and it even makes me suspicious sometimes.” “I feel appreciated.” “I don’t believe any of it.” Just some of the responses from people who follow the online training.

Why do Americans give compliments?

What is the function of giving compliments? Are they ‘slimeballs’ or would they give you the compliment because they genuinely mean it? I think it is part of their culture and they mean well. Compliments are given to motivate, appreciate and connect with another person. It can improve social interaction and performance. If the compliment aligns with your values and is substantive, it makes you feel positive. Think about that time you received a personal compliment. How did that make you feel? You have to know the other person to be able to make a compliment that connects well and that will be appreciated. That’s where it probably goes wrong sometimes. A compliment that is not specific enough (“good job!”), gives no lasting satisfaction and can even come across as hollow if it is given often and too quickly. Better is: “I appreciated your ……, because ….

Are you willing and daring to pay a compliment?

It seems beyond dispute to me that Americans have good intentions in doing so. They probably like to encourage you. If giving compliments has such an important function in dealing with Americans and it can have a positive effect on your working relationship, would you consider giving a compliment yourself? Some reactions from trainees who are about to take the step: “It is exciting to give a compliment yourself, because you are afraid it will be kiss ass, but I am going to do it. I saw that it does my American colleague good. Besides, I appreciate what he does.” “It will definitely take some getting used to, but I can see the point of it and it also suits me. It’s also a matter of practicing and doing it and seeing how they react to it.” “If it helps our cooperation, why not?”

(Just wondering)

(Imagine being used to an environment where giving compliments is very social and highly valued. How would it feel to have collaborations where this is virtually absent? Could that make a person feel insecure? Could it make a person feel underappreciated. I am just wondering, because that is not the intention, right?) Ok, but how? How to give a compliment?

Tools for giving compliments

A compliment that focuses on behavior and explains the effect of the behavior is nice to receive. So not on someone’s appearance, but on their perseverance, service orientation to the customer or ‘let’s go for it’ mentality. Give a compliment that you genuinely mean. Pause for a moment to consider what you appreciate in that person and why. Explain how, for example, their positivity affects you. Give a compliment that feels right for you to give, then you come across as sincere. One or two compliments per person, per meeting is sufficient. It would be a shame if your American colleague thinks, “What does he/she want from me?!”

Don’t weaken your compliment

In case you come from a culture where people are a little uncomfortable with compliments or don’t think it’s necessary, don’t try to water down your compliment with words as “pretty”. “Pretty good” might feel like “nice try”. Also, the word “interesting” which to you may mean that someone is interested, may be meant by them as just about the lowest qualification. So not really interesting, it is more given out of politeness.

Compliments are culturally determined

What compliments might Americans appreciate? That is most likely a different compliment than, say, a German, Italian or Finn would appreciate. It depends on the values they value in their culture and value as a person. You’ll learn more about that in the online training. Should you want to know more about how to build a really good cooperation with Americans, I would like to invite you to read more. If you have any questions, I’d love to help you. Besides, I would love to hear your experiences in giving compliments to Americans.

Dear Americans, which compliment worked well for you and why?

I would like to hear from Americans if they ever receive compliments from their European colleagues or does that hardly ever happen? Which compliment was nice to receive? What did it do to you? How do you experience a (possible) lack of compliments? What do you value when it comes to compliments? Love to hear from you.

Online training

With the online training course Inspire & Convince Americans you will improve your relationship and communication style. If you like to receive new articles directly in your inbox, please send me an e-mail: If you like to read the other articles right now, please be my guest. If you like you can download your free document ‘The 35 most appreciated compliments by Americans’.