My book, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, is shipping from Amazon!

Here is tip #21 from the book: Mud Slinging Means You’re Losing Ground

If you want people to like you, give them compliments. I know, that sounds like I’m telling you to brownnose. Instead, I’m telling you to find genuine ways to compliment people, which requires spending a lot of time looking for the good in people.

The difference between a genuine compliment and a desperate brownnosing attempt is empathy and insight, according to Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, Harvard Graduate School of Education psychologists and co-authors of How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation.

If you understand what worries someone, and what he is trying hardest to achieve personally, then you will easily spot opportunities for praise. Don’t just say “good job” for the sake of it. In fact, don’t just say “good job.” The most effective compliments are very specific. And creative words are more memorable than standard words, according to Mark Knapp, communications professor at University of Texas. The most common types of praise are about possessions “Nice car” or about actions “Great shot.”

Praise of character is the most rare and most memorable praise of all. But it’s also the most difficult because it requires you to understand the person you’re praising and be thoughtful about how you talk to them. For example, “I appreciated the compassion you showed for the team when you were canceling the project.”

To increase the weight of your compliments, establish yourself as a trusted resource. This means you need to be able to give people bad news as well as good news. I will never forget the employee who told me, “You know how everyone laughs at your jokes at the staff meeting? Well, the jokes are not that funny, but since all those people report to you, they laugh. You should stop with the jokes.”

I was crushed to hear that I was not funny. But it would have been worse if I had been allowed to go on and on. (Though sometimes I tell myself that I really was funny and that particular employee just didn’t get my humor.) Still, this person’s subsequent compliments meant more to me because I knew she was honest.

Complimenting your boss is an important part of building a good relationship. Don’t be shy because you have less experience. In fact, powerful people think that people who praise them are smarter and more likeable than those who don’t, according to Knapp. On top of that, powerful people receive fewer compliments than the rest of us.

I never knew how important it is to compliment a boss until I complimented mine, mostly by accident. My boss gave a speech packed with bad news to employees, and I knew it had been hard on him. So after the meeting, I stopped by his office to tell him privately, “You delivered the bad news really well. People were shocked, but they listened to you, and you made them hopeful.”

His face brightened, and he said, in a surprised voice, “Really?”

I realized immediately how much my input had meant to him. How surprised he was to know I thought he did well and how much he respected my assessment. It seemed pathetic, really. I had thought he was a more confident guy than that. But that’s the thing about complimenting your boss: It’s disarming and makes your boss think of you as an equal.

To make a genuine connection, give genuine compliments, but balance them with insightful criticism. With the right balance people will view you as a smarter person and they’ll take all your comments more seriously.

So concentrate on the good in people, and compliment it throughout the day, you just might feel like you’re actually surrounded by kind, competent, and interesting people. And the research shows that they will find you to be more kind and competent as well.