By Isabel Johannes

The first thing you probably say to a child is either “I love your dress!” “You look beautiful!” “Cool toys!” “Awesome job!” (Can you guess which statement belongs to what gender? I bet you can.) Complimenting is a social equalizer. It expresses approval and gratitude. In its essential function, it serves to put people at ease, and express love. But it also expresses what we culturally value as well. Rather than complimenting people for who they are, we compliment them for what we look like, and it reinforces the idea that the latter is more important than the former. So here are a few ideas of things to say when you want to express your appreciation for someone, but may not have the words to do it:

1. How much they’ve evolved.

2. How hard they work.

3. How intuitive they are.

4. That they listen to learn, not respond.

5. How much they make your life better, just for being around.

6. That they’re able to put themselves first, and show themselves love.

7. Their bravery, even in the face of what seems impossible to overcome.

8. Having enough strength to show their emotions.

9. That they don’t take anyone’s bullsh!t (even when it’s yours).

10. That they respect themselves enough to stand up for themselves.

11. How empowered they are by their own dreams.

12. How much fun it is to be with them.

13. How cool their personal style is.

14. How inspiring it is to be around them.

15. How intelligent they are.

16. How often you think about them when you’re apart.

17. How well they tell stories.

18. What a great sibling they are.

19. How understanding they can be, even in frustrating circumstances.

20. How selfless they are.

21. How willing they are to be better.

22. How much you appreciate their friendship.

23. How deeply they are loved.

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