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A Kind Word Can Go A Long Way

Why are so many people reluctant to give unsolicited praise to others? It may simply be that we underestimate how well a compliment will be received and overestimate the cost of giving it.

In a study published in the Psychology Bulletin, researchers asked people to approach a same-gender stranger and offer a sincere compliment. The compliment-givers felt anxious prior to the interaction because they predicted their compliment would be negatively received. But their predictions weren’t accurate. Overall, they significantly underestimated how flattered, happy, and pleased people would feel about being complimented. They also significantly overestimated how awkward or annoyed the recipients would feel.

Psychologist Erica Boothby suggests, “We should think about how we would feel if we received a compliment--and remember that others will feel the same. … A few kind words go a long way.”

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