HOW many compliments did you give someone in the last week? How many did you receive? Probably not very many.

Compliments are a great way to boost someone's mood. People yearn for recognition and appreciation. A compliment is a gift that can make someone's day. They are easy to give and cost nothing. So why are they so rare?

Learning how to pay compliments is one of the most effective things you can do to improve the way you relate to others. With a little practice, you can master the art.

How to do it

Before giving a compliment, remember to smile, make eye contact and use the person's name.

A smile makes you appear friendly and sincere. People always respond positively to a warm smile.

Eye contact also conveys sincerity. People distrust those who do not look them in the eye when speaking.

Using the person's name helps you connect with others. People feel good when they hear their name. As Dale Carnegie observed, a person's name is the sweetest sound in the world - to him.

The compliment itself should be direct, sincere and positive. Usually, it is a statement of something you like about a person's physical appearance, a possession, a personal quality or type of behaviour.

Bear in mind that compliments about personal qualities and behaviours are more meaningful than those directed towards appearance or possessions.

To make a good compliment even better, don't just say what you like, but also explain why you like it. People will understand your reasons for complimenting them and will be less likely to wonder about your motives.

For example, if you want to compliment someone on the new car he has purchased, say, "Hey, Alex, is that your new car? I love it! It's sporty and suits your image."

If you like somebody's sunny nature, say, "You're always so optimistic and positive, Ann. It feels good to be around you."

And if you want to thank someone for his help, say, "It was kind of you to help me unload those boxes, Pat. You saved me a lot of time. Thank you so much."

Many people feel self-conscious about receiving a compliment and may deny it or qualify it to deflect attention from themselves. For example:

You: "May, I like your new hairstyle-it's very chic and shows off your high cheek bones."

May: "Oh, it makes me look so old."

You can make it easier for May to accept your compliment by asking a follow-up question. Instead of wondering how to respond or denying that she is worthy of your kind words, she can just answer your question.

You: "May, I like your new hairstyle - it's very chic and shows off your high cheekbones. Where did you have it done?"

May: "I went to that new shop across the street. Thanks, I'm glad you like it."

Get used to it

When you consider how effective compliments can be and how easy they are to deliver, there is no reason not to use them. Start slowly and gradually increase the frequency. If you suddenly begin to compliment everyone around you, they will question your motives.

Do not use compliments when you want a favour in return or you will lose credibility. Take care to pay compliments only when you do not want anything from that person. He will more likely believe a compliment is sincere when there are no strings attached.

Compliment people on qualities that are not obvious. Complimenting something that has been overlooked by others will sound more genuine and will be greatly appreciated.