I thought this was basically common knowledge but after having spoken with a few people who'd “never thought of it that way,” I figured I might pass along a bit of advice.
When you compliment someone try to find a way to compliment the person not the thing.
I have an uncanny ability to find the negatives in everything: I don't want to go there because it'll be too difficult to find a parking space; I don't want to have dinner with that person because she'll turn a perfectly nice meal into a bitchfest; I don't want to go to that bar because it's always full of drunk frat boys; let's not go to that side of town – traffic's always a mess on Saturdays. You get the idea.
So I try to challenge myself to find at least one positive thing in every day. I know it sounds like a very Oprah-let's-keep-a-journal-of-personal-affirmations kind of thing to say, but it's just something I need to do. For example, because it's so easy to fall into the “work sucks” mentality, I find one simple thing to be happy about going in: working with someone I haven't worked with in a week, getting to wear my new earrings, putting up my hair in a new style I've never been able to utilize before; imagining my day will be over really early/really soon/in time to watch “The Price is Right.”
So when I used to go out to the bars all the time I'd say “Okay, I'm going to say at least one nice thing to at least one person, but I have to mean it.” In other words, don't just walk past a girl in the bathroom and go “Hey, nice shoes.” Because, I thought, it's much nicer to say something about the individual, not just the item. Instead I'd say “Those are great shoes. You have really good taste.”
Maybe there are dozens of young women running around Indianapolis who think there's some crazy bitch who hits on them in the bathroom of dance clubs.
But while I'm not going to break my arm patting myself on the back, maybe there are a few young women out there who thought “I was having a shitty night until that nice girl told me I had great style.”