Expressing validation or compliments can be very effective for:
- getting someone to like you / to sympathize with you
- making you into an authority figure for him / her, and by doing so
- being able to influence your conversation partner
For this to work best, you have to be able to demonstrate a certain social status or high standards. People respect other people who demonstrate value and standards.
You can also test your partner to see if he / she meets your standards.
There are two types of validation: positive and negative.
With a positive validation, you approve or praise a trait, statement or action of your partner.
With a negative validation, you disapprove or question something.
It is important that this does not sound like disingenuous flattery. If you have a positive appreciation:
Let him/her know why you like him/her.
Show your sincere interest with at least one (open) follow-up question that will reveal more about your conversation partner.
Example of a positive appreciation:
DU: What do you do professionally?
He/she: I am a teacher.
DU: That’s really great.
Most of the people I meet are business people or entrepreneurs …
(These people are often rated “higher” in society than teachers because of their income).
… But I like the fact that you play a role in the development of children. It is a really important job and requires a lot of patience. Tell me more…
Compliments can be problematic!
Above all, if you do not give them properly, they may be seen as empty flattery and seem insincere.
In addition, certain people – sexually attractive, successful or affluent people – receive compliments all the time. Although they usually like compliments, “conventional” compliments lose their effect the more they hear them.
So, your compliments must:
- Appear to be genuine
And to make maximum impact …
- Be specific
Compliments like, for example:
- You are very attractive.
- You have beautiful hair.
- You are a very intelligent person.
- That’s a great idea!
… are vague and general.
If you compliment someone, you should tailor it and / or provide the basis for the compliment.
In the examples above: better would be …
- I love how your dress brings out your figure. It is very attractive!
- The way your hair falls on your shoulders is really very noticeable!
- I think your analysis of the problem was very intelligent because …
- I think that’s a great idea because … (be specific!)
So, before complimenting, think about how to make it specific, well-founded, and, if possible, unique.
After you have given someone enough positive reputations, they can begin to become too confident.
But if you want to influence your conversation partner, you can also make a negative comment.
This is especially useful in a sexual interaction.
You: What kind of books do you like to read?
He/she: I usually read action adventure stories.
You: (* stop for a moment, maybe a bit confused *)
He/she: What’s wrong?
You: Well, it’s just not the kind of book I expected from you. Based on our conversation I would have thought that you would rather read classical literature or about history or politics.
That’s only slightly critical. After all, you also told him/her that you had a positive opinion of him/her up to this point.
But that could put someone a bit on the defensive.
When your conversation partner starts explaining, however, it means he/she thinks you have enough status to criticize. He/she now appreciates your opinion and wants to regain your positive impression.
Do not be too harsh or hurtful with your negative validation, or you could really insult him / her and ruin the bond you have built with him / her!
If you are not sure, do not use negative appreciation until you have some experience.
Combine negative and positive validation
This is also called a “double-edged compliment”.
You mix positive and a negative validation in way that says:
I think you are impressive, but there is room for improvement.
An example – woman to man:
(+) “I like the way your suit suits you, and the color really goes well with your eyes, but …
(…) “… I’m not sure if the shoes are right, shoes with a little more style would really improve the overall look.”
In this case, the woman puts a little more emphasis on the positive side. This makes her conversation partner more willing to accept the negative part and accept it her as an authority.