Non-Physical Compliments: 35 Ways to Make Someone Feel Good Without Focusing on Looks

35 non-physical compliments to take the focus away from an image-centric society

When you first meet up with a friend, what is the first thing you say after hello? Instead of a non-physical compliment, it’s often just the opposite — we rattle off, “You look so good!”

Or we make the mistake of commenting on someone’s weight: “Did you lose weight? You look great!” While these compliments are well-intended, they aren’t the best habits to have because they train us to focus on external beauty instead of inner beauty. 

Why We Could All Use More Non-Physical Compliments

Complimenting someone’s physical appearance — skin in particular — is a biggie for me because I used to have really bad acne all the way through my early twenties. Back then, I would have loved for someone to compliment my skin.

Fast forward to today where I miraculously have pretty darn good skin on most days. Now, when someone compliments my skin, it feels great; but it feeds the link where I equate good skin with worthiness. I consciously know that good skin doesn’t define my worth, but just like our issues with weight, it’s not an easy one to “just get over.”

To build true self-confidence, we need to do inner work to untangle the unfair link between physicality and worthiness. Ceasing the comments on physical appearance and especially weight is paramount. Studies have even found that negative comments about body shape — especially from family — have a damaging impact on self-esteem.[1] If we can train ourselves to stop commenting on body image, maybe it can help improve self-esteem by taking the mental “air time” away from physical looks altogether.

Physical compliments are a manifestation of an image-centric society, and if we can train ourselves to look for non-physical compliments instead, it will help train the brain to slowly stop linking looks and worthiness together. It’s not the entire answer, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Non-Physical Compliments for Friends & Family

“You’re a great listener. I always feel heard and understood when I talk to you.”

Non-physical compliments focus on a person’s qualities, skills, or personality, rather than their appearance. They are a way of showing appreciation and admiration for someone’s internal qualities, rather than external beauty.

While physical compliments can be nice, they might end up highlighting the source of someone’s compulsion, such as body shape, and contributes to a cultural obsession with thinness. It can be especially helpful to focus on non-physical compliments if you’re healing your relationship with food and body image.

There are countless examples of non-physical compliments that you can give to someone. Here are a few ideas:

  • “Your sense of humor is exceptional, always brightening the room.”
  • “In all that you do, your determination and work ethic really shine through.”
  • “Your kindness and generosity are truly inspiring and impactful.”
  • “You’re such an attentive listener, always making me feel heard and understood.”
  • “I really admire the way you handle tough situations.”
  • “Your resilience and grace through adversity are truly inspiring.”
  • “Your dependability is a source of great comfort and trust in our relationship.”
  • “Everywhere you go, you bring warmth and I admire that about you.”

These compliments focus on someone’s character, skills, and personality traits, rather than their appearance or physical attributes. These compliments that aren’t about physical appearance can help to build someone’s confidence and self-esteem, and show that you appreciate them for who they are, not just how they look.

Ideas on What to Say When You First See Someone

“Your positivity is beaming today”
“Your magnetic personality is shining bright as ever today!”

Here are some more examples of compliments that aren’t about physical appearance that you can give someone when you first greet them:

  • “Your energy is so uplifting; it brightens my day the moment I see you.”
  • “I love your positivity, it just radiates so brightly.”
  • “Looking forward to our time together today.”
  • “Your presence in my life means the world to me.”
  • “Your magnetic personality is shining bright as ever today!”
  • “The warmth of your presence brings comfort and joy the second you walk in.”
  • “Your vibrant spirit is truly infectious, filling the room with positive energy.”
  • “I’m eager to hear your thoughts. Your perspective is always so refreshing.”
  • “The calmness you carry is so reassuring.”
  • “Your zest for life is absolutely contagious!”

These are much better compliments than pointing out how great someone’s hair looks. It can be a tough habit to break, too! I know I definitely compliment someone’s looks or hair when I first see them out of habit. Training yourself to give non physical compliments takes time and is well worth the effort.

Non-Physical Compliments in Parenting

“I love your enthusiasm. It's contagious and brightens everyone's day.”

Parents and all people who interact with children have a unique opportunity to give the gift of not being so inclined to focus on looks. Wouldn’t it be amazing to train kids at a young age — or any age — to give non-physical compliments?

It starts with breaking the habit of saying, “Oh my goodness, look at how big you are! Look at how much you’ve grown! Look at your hair!” and instead, shaking things up with some compliments that aren’t about physical appearance.

Here are some examples of non-physical compliments that you can use either with your children or around any children that you interact with:

  • “The creativity and imagination are astounding. Your ideas are so imaginative!”
  • “Your kindness towards others is heartwarming. You have such a gift for understanding other people.”
  • “Your passion is inspiring. It’s a joy to see you engaged in what you love.”
  • “Your patience with learning new things is impressive.”
  • “Thanks for doing your chores, your work ethic is amazing and it will take you very far.”
  • “Your curiosity about the world is a talent that will serve you very well in life.”
  • “Your knack for problem-solving is very impressive.”
  • “Look at you! Your positivity and optimism light up the room!”

A great benefit of non-physical compliments is that it encourages you to be more creative with your vocabulary, which has a positive effect on children. Kids enjoy being treated and spoken to like they’re adults, and studies show that it helps with language development.[2] It makes them feel good, and that’s what non-physical compliments are all about!

Non-Physical Compliments in the Workplace

“Your attention to detail is impressive.”

The workplace is an excellent time to focus on non-physical compliments, as positive reinforcement in the workplace helps build resilience and positive attitudes among employees.[3] While there’s nothing wrong with complimenting someone’s carefully curated work outfit, there are so many opportunities to compliment someone’s non-physical qualities at work. It’s the perfect place to build a habit of looking for non-physical qualities to compliment.

Here are some examples of non-physical compliments in the workplace:

  • “Your curiosity really helps us innovate.”
  • “You are a great catalyst for to continuous learning.”
  • “Your problem-solving skills are outstanding.”
  • “The creativity and originality in your work are really impressive.”
  • “Your strong work ethic and dedication really help us stay motivated.”
  • “You have exceptional communication skills.”
  • “Your adaptability and openness to change help inspire us all to think outside the box.”
  • “Your attention to detail does not go unnoticed!”
  • “Your leadership and ability to guide others helps motivate the entire team.”

The Ripple Effect of Non-Physical Compliments

Non-physical compliments have the power to break the cycle of associating one’s looks with their worthiness. They shift the focus away from physical appearance and towards a person’s inner qualities and characteristics.

Over time, receiving compliments that aren’t about physical appearance can train individuals to value themselves for who they are, rather than for how they look. It can lead to a virtuous cycle. When someone receives a non-physical compliment, they feel validated, appreciated, and valued for something that goes beyond their physical appearance.

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