How To Compliment Someone Without Mentioning Their Appearance

How to complement someone

I was in school when this little incident happened. One morning, as I got dropped off at the school gate, I saw one of my best friends waiting at the entrance. She was observing me as I exited the car and made my way to her. She looked at me sweetly, and the first thing she said to me was “You know, the way you get out of the car, swinging your legs so elegantly, there is just so much grace in that.” Of course, I had laughed it off then, but today, years later, while I’ve forgotten a lot of things about school, that unexpected compliment has stayed with me, even though I feel miles from feeling any kind of grace in myself.

Sometime last year, while in the middle of a particular transaction, we were having this large all-party meeting, with lots of lawyers, temperamental senior executives, and clients in attendance. I was one of the two people leading the project, and I’d assumed that my colleague would steer the meeting. However, when the meeting started, somehow the onus to kick things off fell on me. I am usually extremely wary of too much attention, so I started off hesitatingly, but managed to get it done.

After the meeting was over, a friend of mine whom I admire deeply and who was also a part of the meeting group, came up to me and said that I handled the whole thing really well and had managed to get the large group to agree on a plan of action despite the crunched timelines. Needless to say, it felt good to be seen and appreciated for something that I am inherently not comfortable with.

There have been plenty of other times when someone has complimented me on what I am wearing, how I am looking, how my skin is glowing etc etc, and yet I find that when I am trying to pull on some internal reserve of strength and belief, it’s not those physical compliments that I remember, but the ones where the person saw something deep in me, and very kindly pointed it out.

Being complimented on our physical appearance sure feels good and will probably never get old. But as I have grown older, I have started valuing the inside more than the outside. Among many other things, I’ve learnt that being seen and complimented for those not-so-obvious bits somehow brings about a greater sense of satisfaction.

So I try to return the favour of looking beyond the obvious, the physical, and finding something deeper to compliment someone about. Their skills, their attitude, their brain, their heart. Those kinda things. All in the hope of making them feel good about themselves even on days when they don’t feel their best physically. In fact, especially for those kind of days*.

*PS – If you’ve been having one of those days yourself, remember to indulge in some self love. You deserve that and more.

13 Ways to Compliment Someone Without Mentioning Their Appearance

I’ve rounded up a few ideas that you can use the next time you’re wondering how to compliment someone beyond the physicality of their being. Not an exhaustive list by any means, but something to get you thinking along these lines.

1| I am so proud of how hard you’re working on yourself.

If someone you know has been working hard on themselves physically, mentally – they’ve been going to their AA meetings, or they’ve been regular with their exercise routine, or they’ve finally made that appointment with a therapist – tell them that you’re proud of their journey and the effort they are putting in.

2| You have a way of calming me down even on my worst days. Thank you so much.

For your 3am friend. The one who will give you the best advice even when it may not be what you want to hear in the moment.

3| I love the way your mind works.

The smarter and more open-minded “your people” are, the smarter and more open-minded you will become. Intelligence, conventional or otherwise, is super sexy. Let them know that you appreciate it.

4| Your recommendations are always the best. I can trust them blindfolded.

For your cool friend who has a pulse on all the latest books/shows/music/movies, and whose recommendations will never let you down. In fact, because of her, you get to be the cool friend to someone else. :P

5| I really admire how you handled yourself in that meeting/situation. I have so much to learn from you.

This is an actual compliment I’ve given one of my work friends. She’s really the best at managing work relationships and somehow manages to make it look absolutely effortless. It can also very well extend to times when someone is managing a difficult situation with a certain kind of ease. Let them know that you’re noticing it all.

6| Thank you for believing in me. Having you by my side matters to me.

We want to be seen for who and what we are, as we are. Having someone in your corner, someone who cheers you on your victories and offers warm words or a hug (or both) on your bad days, is a real privilege. Cherish those people.

7| That pasta/brownie/curry you made is making me feel all the feels. You are truly feeding my soul.

For your friend/partner/parent who has a magical touch in the kitchen, and whose food you just cannot get enough of.

8| Life with you is the best kind of adventure.

You need some people in your life to kick things up a notch for you every once in a while. It could be your best friend, your partner, your child even. Acknowledge that bright, adventurous spirit in them and let them know that you enjoy the excitement they bring in your life.

9| I love how you can make people laugh so easily.

I don’t how they do it, but it sure is a real talent to be able to make people smile and laugh!

10| You are kindness personified. From your actions to your words, there is so much kindness in you.

I think of my maternal grandmom whenever I think of kindness and grace. It’s one of those things I wish I could imbibe more of.

11| You’re the only person who can make me do this.

This being taking off on a road trip at a moment’s notice. This being waking up at 6am on Saturday morning to go for a run. This being making you buy a jewel toned dress when you’re an eternal black wearer. This being whatever you will roll your eyes at, and yet do it lovingly, because the person makes it worth it.

12| This is exactly what I was looking for. You’ve nailed this a 101%!

The next time your tailor/contractor/web designer/interior decorator delivers a final product which surpasses all your expectations, scream it out loud!

13| Your parents/family/children are lucky to have you. You take such good care of them.

Taking care of someone else, in whatever capacity, is a lot of work, and involves so many little things for them. Tell them that you see their effort, their attention to the needs of others, their vigilance.

Like I said, this is not an exhaustive list. I would love to hear some more suggestions from you. Do you have any other ideas on how to compliment someone? What’s the best compliment that you have received which was not about your looks or your appearance?

Image via The Creative Library

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  1. I loved this. It’s so nice to receive a compliment about something a little deeper than appearance. It might sound a bit silly but I’m getting married next year and we’ve decided to do it on a really small budget. My fiance told me he thought I’d done really well planning such a good sounding wedding for such a small cost and I felt really proud that I’d pulled it off!

    1. Gosh! That must have felt so good to hear. I can totally relate to that feeling… compliments like these warm you up from the inside. :)

  2. This is such a valuable post, I love it! I always find that unexpected compliments, especially the ones that are about something I’m already proud of, stick with me too. Thank you for sharing the examples too, such a positive read!

    Anika |

    1. Yes! Those kind of compliments certainly give you a different kind of high altogether. :)
      Glad you liked the post, and thank you.

  3. Thanks for this awesome post. Didn’t realize I needed this until I read them. Obviously, everyone needs appreciation in one way or the other. These are all so positive and suitable for various scenarios!!

    1. So glad this resonated with you! It’s always the little things that make so much of a difference in our lives. :)

  4. I absolutely love this article. I’ve been having a truly horrible day, and even though these compliments weren’t necessarily meant for me, they warmed my soul, and made me realize that I need to consider sharing moments like this with the people who mean the most to me. I appreciate your heart in this so much. It was wonderfully written!

    1. I am so glad that this post could help you in some way. Hope you’re feeling better now. ?

      We are a lot more than our bodies, the diets we’re on, the clothes we wear. I guess it just feels good to be acknowledged for more than our physical selves.

  5. These are all such wonderful compliments, I’d love to hear any of these over something image-related. And it goes without saying that I could do with adding these to my arsenal of kindness so thank you so much for sharing. ?

    1. I am so happy that this has resonated with you. It’s one of those posts that made me so happy even as I was writing it. :)

  6. This is a really good point you make here. It sometimes seems too easy to give a compliment about appearance, so much so that it feels forced and insincere at times. I think complimenting someone on how hard they’re working or their values is much more important these days. Really well said ?

    1. Yes you’re right – sometimes we just comment on someone’s appearance for lack of anything else to say. I don’t mean to suggest that they don’t have their own value, but the non-physical kind of comments just run deeper somehow! :)

      Glad you liked the post. :)

  7. This is so nice :) Everyone should learn to appreciate a person because of other things and not just their appearance. It’s really heartwarming to be on the receiving end!

  8. As a teacher, the best compliment I ever received was from a parent telling me how proud she was of me. It was unexpected because it was in response to me telling the parent how proud I was of her child and she turned it back around on me. It left me speechless then and I still remember it fondly now. Your suggestions are important in every relationship and are ones I will carry with me into the classroom. Thank you for the reminder!

    1. That must have felt so nice, especially coming from a parent who has entrusted you with their child. I’ve loved how this post has resonated with so many people – just goes to show that what we really want is meaningful connections and to be seen and appreciated. :)

      Have a lovely weekend!

  9. Superb post, I loved how you wrote every thing with such details.its pretty easy to compliment by appearance but its hard to do the other way round. Your post helped me alot and it was informative and beneficial.

    1. Thank you, Alina! Seeing people for who they are, appreciating them, and letting them know about it is one of the best things we can do for our loved ones, friends, and really, just about anyone! :)

  10. 100% agree that compliments that go beyond the surface and recognize our traits or actions – sometime those that we aren’t even fully cognisant of, or those we don’t think others notice, feels so good.
    And I’ve noticed that random gestures of kindness to friends and colleagues often stick in their memory. Unexpected but pleasing.
    Nice timing for this post, Shirsha. It’s a great reminder to share the positivity every chance we get!