Years ago, I read about a trick (although a trick might be a bit of a misnomer, you aren’t really trying to deceive anyone) about giving someone the best compliment. Basically it involves two steps, an offhanded question that you ask and a lot of time.

  1. The offhand question

In a conversation with a very good friend or partner of yours, ask them this simple question: If they could have one sentence on their tombstone, something that they could be remembered for, what would that sentence be? Next, pay very close attention to what they say.

For example, they might say “I want to be remembered as a great father, husband, son and brother” – you can surmise that family is very important to this person. Or they might say “I want to be remembered for being extremely generous, kind and giving with my time” – you can guess that this person wants to give his time and energy to making others feel good. Although these are just examples, you can see that there’s something deeper in the statement – a deeper value that you can derive from what the person wants to be remembered for.

  1. Wait

Keeping that statement and value in the back of your mind, wait for a few months or a year (longer and it may not be as effective). Wait for a long time – so long that the person forgot that you asked the question about their last message on their tombstone. Then, when that person least expects it, compliment them on the value that they think defines their life or their purpose. If they believe family is important, you might say “You are such a wonderful family man – you are so loving to your wife, parents, children and friends”. Or if they are a kind and loving person who gives their time generously, you might tell them that they are “incredibly generous with their time and energy and that they make the world a better place just by being in it”.

Boom! A compliment that hits them where they want to be remembered the most.