Stop The Compliments and Show Me Some Gratitude

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The deal closed after months and months of negotiations. Everyone was exhausted and beyond relieved. It would not only bring in a large amount of revenue in the business, but it would prevent any more layoffs.

As everyone walked out of the room, he yelled out, “Great Job, job well done! Could not have done it without you.”

As the door closed, I couldn’t help thinking What the hell was that?

It was intended as a compliment, I’m sure, but I’m equally sure that as everyone walked out of the room they felt nothing.

It was just a bunch of words that created a sentence that said great work!

I believe that all of us have a deep craving to be appreciated. And we all desire to be significant, and to know that our contributions matter.

And the compliment those people heard was not working for his leadership. As his coach, I knew I would be directing him toward a new path of learning.

There are two kinds of leaders:

Those who withhold gratitude, which we know is not good.

And then there are those who say “Thank you! Great job! Way to go! We did it!!

But the truth those words leave the person or people receiving the complete usually hollow.

Don’t get me wrong.

Compliments are nice, but they are fleeting moments where good intentions do not last.

Many of us mistake compliments for gratitude.

So what is the difference?

Compliments create distance. There’s a paradox about compliments. Once bestowed, they often create a separation between the giver and receiver instead of drawing them closer. Giving someone a compliment can create an awkward moment, and often it creates distance between giver and receiver. Sometimes a compliment makes people feel embarrassed.

Gratitude creates a bond. When you are grateful and you make it personal, you create a bond. It lets the other person know that who they are matters, and what they did was significant to you.

People are always happy to hear that what they do has made a difference and has significance.

A compliment is a generic acknowledgment of something tangible—a completed task, a nice haircut, a compelling presentation, or a compassionate gesture.

Gratitude goes beyond the compliment to the intangible—why you are thankful for the completed task or the compelling presentation, the personal effect the tangible act had on you.

People are always glad to have their work acknowledged, but to know that it matters makes it more meaningful.

Compliments lead to mistrust. The recipient may wonder whether it’s sincere or deserved.

Gratitude leads to trust. The recipient knows specifically how their character, their task, made an impression.

People want to trust what you say. Make it personal. Make it true.

Compliments may not land. However well-meaning, the recipient may not feel acknowledgment.

Gratitude lands in the heart. Being grateful gets to the heart of the matter. The recipient knows exactly what they have done and how their role made a difference.

People want to feel connected—not only to you but to what you say.

Learn how to give genuine gratitude and not just simplistic compliments.

 Be the kind of leader who has the courage to show gratitude, and the fearlessness to make it personal.

Everyone likes compliments, but if you want to touch someone’s heart, show them your gratitude.

Lead from within: A leader who leads from within goes beyond the compliment. They make gratitude personal; they know how to make it matter.


N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Alli Polin

    06. May, 2014

    In a work or personal relationship, where we’re more than passing strangers, I’m with you… compliments can feel fake without something deeper and more meaningful behind it. I like that you name it as gratitude – since that’s really what it is.

    In one of my training classes I have each individual share an acknowledgement of someone else as we pass out the completion certificates. Instead of “great work” or I’m glad you were in the class with me” I give participants a structure. The structure for the acknowledgement starts with “You are…” People feel seen, heard and more than complimented. It’s a structure that class participants (hopefully) pull forward into their daily leadership.

    Lolly – you are someone that lives your leadership. It’s never just words.

    This is an important read and great practice for leaders everywhere.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Terri Klass

    06. May, 2014

    Compliments are always appreciated when they are accompanied with specific words and information. When we tell others that we value their contribution or that they have a particular expertise, we need to back it up with why we feel that way.

    Leaders who want to make a difference realize that honest and specific feedback empowers others to grow in their jobs and careers.

    Great post and great points, Lolly! I admire your genuine ability to help others find their gifts.

    Reply to this comment
  3. LaRae Quy

    06. May, 2014

    Let me start by saying that I am grateful for the insight you’ve given me into how heart infuses the way we approach life.

    As I say these words, there is no expectation of reciprocity or an implicit request for you to say something similar.

    To your point, it’s about attitude and spirit…gratitude is being able to say what is on our heart, stripped of ambition or pretenses.

    Simple thoughts and words that are genuine and without manipulation.

    Great post, and great distinction between compliments and gratitude.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Panteli Tritchew

    06. May, 2014

    “It was just a bunch of words that created a sentence that said great work!” I hear this often at meetings, sometimes directed to me, sometimes directed to the assembly at large. Showing real gratitude is hard work and when we give it, we create the magic space that leads to receiving.

    Sometimes your weekly post grounds me; sometimes it propels me. Although I never know which, I’m grateful for both. Heartfelt thanks for your heart-work, Lolly.

    Reply to this comment
  5. sridhar laxman

    08. May, 2014

    Thank you for this powerful post. Compliments are just heard while gratitude is felt. Every client I coach has come back and told me about the joy they experience from the conscious daily practice of gratitude. Thanks again for continuing to inspire me and those I share these posts with.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Agus

    08. May, 2014

    Very wise, humility and bit deeper spiritually. Sometimes compliments make us floating then forget down to earth (maybe).

    Thanks to share.

    Reply to this comment
  7. David Cunningham

    09. May, 2014

    Very, very wise post. I think we all can learn a lot from this as it pertains to compliments and gratitude, thanks for sharing!

    Reply to this comment
  8. affirmingspirit

    13. May, 2014

    Yes, I have been on the receiving end of compliments like this. The word we give to acknowledgement (compliment, gratitude appreciation) is almost not important.

    To me, what’s really important are the actions that follow. Many times the actions don’t follow the sentiment of the compliments or the gratitude.

    Business partners and employees who feel your words, and see your actions supporting those words, are more likely to stick around and pitch in even when the going gets tough.

    Many blessings,

    Reply to this comment
  9. Jens R. Woinowski

    20. May, 2014

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I know I’ve been on the receiving end of such compliments – but I also know that I must have been on the giving end as well.

    For me, the dilemma is that while you can easily put a compliment in a sentence, gratitude needs to be conveyed on an emphatic level. Even if you feel gratitude, once you put it into words, it may vanish.

    Nevertheless, a plain “thank you”, accompanied by a handshake and a look into the each other’s eyes can do the job. If it is coming from the heart.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Henry Woeltjen

    08. Jun, 2014

    To be honest, we cannot base our motivation on the expectations we build in our heads. The fact that the deal was done should have been motivation enough.

    I agree that true gratitude is the best possible reaction. However, what is and what should be may create unnecessary friction in your social life.

    Great article. I just think we should ignore these issues and concentrate on the next win.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Amy Byer Shainman

    18. Jun, 2014

    This is outstanding. Period.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Dawood Chishti

    19. Jul, 2014

    “If you want to touch someone’s heart, show them gratitude”

    Reply to this comment
  13. コーセー モイスチュアスキンリペア

    07. Oct, 2014

    Hello! I’ve been following your blog for a long time now
    and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Texas!
    Just wanted to say keep up the good work!

    Reply to this comment
  14. Francisco (paquito1807)

    13. Oct, 2014

    I like Your differentiated view on this topic and I fully agree. Also I think that if You genuinely feel this gratitude inside you it is not such a hard work anymore to forumulate it. It is practise (technique) and empathetique (talent). You can improve your ability to show and communicate gratitude. A question: do you think that women are better in this “exercise”?

    Reply to this comment
  15. Dedra

    27. Oct, 2014

    Hi there to every one, the contents existing at this website are in fact remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the
    nice work fellows.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Narayan

    05. Aug, 2015

    Excellent article. Full stop.
    ___/|\___ (Folded hands)
    Compliments are usually paid in a casual manner. Gratitude has a personal touch to it.

    Reply to this comment
  17. The Mingle Master

    15. Aug, 2015

    Great points, Lolly. A lot of people mistakenly think that sugar blowing a bunch of empty compliments and kissing up is the way to look good and get ahead. Not true. It is much better to make your words mean something.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Colin McAllister

    19. Jul, 2017

    Recognize me for what I have done – tasks – get my thanks
    Acknowledge me for who I am – values / beliefs – get my trust

    Reply to this comment
  19. Timothy Rodriquez

    02. Oct, 2020

    Thanks for uplifting everyone’s morale, for pushing the boundaries and lifting everyone

    Reply to this comment
  20. Debanjalee Sen

    07. Oct, 2021

    Hi Lolly,

    Thanks for such an inspiring blog.

    “People want to feel connected—not only to you but to what you say.” –

    Well, I could connect with this so much. We always notice more than the words spoken by the other person. The vibes matter, the way matters how he says what he says, and we always have an intuition to identify if someone is being fake… thank you again.

    Reply to this comment
  21. Chris Mathew

    11. Oct, 2021

    Thank you for the good article about the difference between Compliments and Gratitude. Definitely, we should connect with teammates.

    Reply to this comment

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