Northwest Brief Therapy Training Center
Olympia, Washington

Solution-Focused Management: Compliments
Compliments can be powerful interventions with colleagues, clients, subordinates. It is useful if compliments offered are relevant to the person and are about what the person has accomplished, identifying resources or that uncover positive motives. It is best to compliment what you have directly observed and offer it sincerely.

Challenge yourself to look for things people do that you can compliment genuinely. You help people discover their own resources and abilities and help improve your relationship with them. Complimenting can even improve your own mood. You can practice complimenting yourself too!

The purpose of compliments is to help people notice what they do that is good for them and/or the organization as they move forward to achieve their goals or the organization’s goals.

  1. Direct Compliments:

  2. Rules of Thumb: Use statements sparingly; use positive reactions frequently. Both are better when they reflect what the client values.

  3. Indirect Compliments:

  4. Type 2: Relationship Questions

  5. Type 3: Resource/Ability Questions

  6. Rules of Thumb: Type 3 should be used most frequently, then Type 2 or 1.

    For Type 3: Often, people respond to Type 3 compliments by telling you how they know what is right for them, i.e. what their values are (rather than the listener imposing values). Also, this frequently initiates self-compliments (see below).

    For Type 2: Because the questioner is not the “source”, these can be easier for the responder to react to.

    For Type 1: This is a good way to develop a detailed picture or script with the responder as the “leading actor.”

  7. Self-Compliments:

  8. Rules of Thumb: React to the responder’s statement. Self-compliments can be a good sign of progress. A contact dominated by self-compliments (that you can agree with) indicates the person is on track and needs less supervision on that task.

  9. Using Reactions to Compliments:

  10. Reminder: Your goal is for people to notice positive changes and not for them to accept compliments.

    Acceptance: Some people accept compliments easily. Frequently, these are the people who also give compliments, which you should appreciate though not necessarily accept, especially if you are being given credit for that person’s positive changes.

    Downplay/Rejection: Some people reject or downplay compliments, saying in effect, that it is “nothing much”. In this case, you may preface compliments like this: “You may find this hard to believe, but in my experience . . .”

    (copyright: NWBTTC, 2008) <

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