It’s fun to receive compliments. It’s as much fun to give them! That can be intimidating, though. “What if I say the wrong thing? What if they take it wrong? What if they get angry?” Relax! Saying something nice can be easier than you’d think. First, the ground rules:

Don’t be a pest. If someone’s talking to someone, chatting on the phone, reading a book, or otherwise occupied doing something they probably don’t want want to be interrupted from, then don’t.

They don’t owe you a response. If you say something nice to someone, you haven’t obligated them to thank you, to smile, or even to acknowledge your presence. If they don’t, move on.

Examine your motives. Are you saying something nice to get a date? See the previous rule, and stop right there.

Don’t compliment their body. Unless you’re talking to your romantic partner, don’t comment on someone’s body. If they’re a stranger, or a co-worker, or anyone else who isn’t already voluntarily in a relationship with you, don’t say it.

Stick to complimenting choices they make. For extra safety, concentrate on matters of taste that they’re publicly displaying, like “those are great boots!” or “I love the band on your jacket!”

Don’t take forever to do it. If you’re standing there impatiently waiting for them to finishing their conversation, you’re going to come across as creepy.

With those said, here’s how to say something nice to someone:

  1. Turn to them and say, “wow, your hair color is so cool!”
  2. Smile quickly and sincerely.
  3. Go back to what you were doing.

That’s it. This communicates that you’re being sincere and not imposing an obligation on the listener. If they smile and thank you, right on! If they don’t, that’s fine!

It’s fun to compliment strangers, and people should do more of that. Make sure you’re doing it for the right reason — to make the world happier and more pleasant — then make it easy on the recipient. Good luck!