By Helena Echlin
July 31, 2007
“Thanks for a great meal” is not good enough either. You could say it to anybody who cooks for you. Debby Hoffman, motivational speaker and coauthor of the book Find Something Nice to Say: The Power of Compliments, calls this a “one-size-fits-all compliment.” Such comments are nice to hear, but they don’t make the receiver feel special. All the chefs I spoke to said they like to get a little more validation.
Here are some tips on how to best show your appreciation for a meal.
Firstly, be specific. As Hoffman says, the best compliments are “full of details, particular to that person and that event.” They show that you’ve really noticed what you’re eating and that your praise is sincere. “Recently I had a dinner party, and I made pasta with herbs from my garden,” says web designer Dukhan. “It was nice when my guests said things like, ‘You can really taste the fresh basil.’”
Even better: Turn your compliment about the dinner into a general statement about your host.
Mark Knapp, a professor of communication at the University of Texas, says, “Research shows that the compliments people like most and remember most are those that seem to have a bearing on their personality and attributes rather than on a specific feature. People like to hear, ‘That hat looks great on you,’ but they’d rather hear, ‘You have great taste.’” You can be specific and generalize about the host’s personality at the same time. For instance, you might say: “You come up with so many great uses for fresh herbs.”
Even after rhapsodizing about the food during dinner, you should thank your host a second time, a day or two later. The first time you compliment him or her, your host might be tipsy and not remember it afterward. Plus, many people are embarrassed by compliments and often can’t fully enjoy them in the moment. So it’s nice to offer your appreciation in a form they can savor, like email or snail mail.
Try not to start with the phrase thank you. If you shun this clichéd beginning, it shows you’ve gone to extra trouble with your note. “It forces you to be creative,”