Ever had a compliment but knew deep down that the person didn’t really mean it? Or felt that the person was only being nice because they wanted your business? Here are Julie Kortens’ thoughts…

Thousands of years ago, the word ‘probably’ meant ‘definitely’. As centuries went by, people had less and less faith in using the word probably until it eventually took up its current meaning.

Similarly, the word ‘soon’ once meant ‘now’, but as generations upon generations of people promised to do things ‘soon’ and then went off and procrastinated the meaning shifted from ‘now’ to ‘in a little while’.

Then, there’s the word naughty, which started life as a serious insult meaning that somebody was literally nothing, or naught, to me; fantastic referred only to things that happened in fantasies, not real life and terrible of course originally meant something that inspired or created terror.

This process goes on and on, we have seen ‘wicked’ change its meaning from bad to good and you could argue that Facebook is halfway through weakening the meaning of ‘friend’ to something more along the lines of ‘online acquaintance’.

All well and good, you might say, but what has this got to do with the title of this blog? Well, in recent months I have heard people consistently describe others as ‘amazing’ and I really believe that this word, and similar ones, are losing the power that they once had. If you routinely tell your colleagues and subordinates that they are amazing, what are you meant to say when they do something truly exceptional?

I think we’ve all felt like this when networking. People will tell you that you are amazing or special or a friend, only to move on and say exactly the same thing to the next person they come across. For some, compliments are churned out on a production line, and it’s a case of one size fits all. Compliments that are ready to be handed out to anyone and everyone who crosses their path.

If we want true compliments to continue to mean something, then we need to start putting more thought into them. It isn’t rude to save your praise for those times when someone has truly impressed you, and when you do praise someone, make sure that praise is genuine. Don’t just tell people that they, or their work, is ‘amazing’ but explain what particular thing it is that you like so much. We all know that it means much more when someone tells us that they really like our shirt or shoes than when they just say, “oh you look really nice.”

Finally, don’t think that constructive criticism can’t form part of a genuine compliment. In fact, if you give someone the impression that you think they are perfect, you aren’t being genuine, and you certainly aren’t doing them any favours. Nobody is perfect and most of us value people who really understand us and are honest with us.