Doctor: “You have acute appendicitis.”

Blonde: “I came here for medical help, not compliments.”


Everyone likes to be complimented. People feel good about themselves when they receive a compliment and they feel good about the person giving the compliment.


An ER Doctor: “No one likes to be told they are a terrible patient. It is very temping to agree with the patient who announces that they are the ’worst patient you’ll ever see.’ While they may be right, they prefer to hear you say, ’Oh, you’re not anywhere near the worst patient I’ve ever seen. As a matter of fact you are doing rather well considering the circumstances.’ After agreeing with some of the worst patients imaginable, I found that I hurt their feelings. An ounce of honey is much better at getting any semblance of cooperation than a cup of vinegar.”


Giving compliments is not always a natural behavior. Some people never have a nice word to say and others offer compliments so readily that they have limited credibility. The use of compliments to enhance bedside manner requires observational skills to find the perfect words and the knowledge of when to use them. You don’t want to be thought of as disingenuous. If you become attuned to peoples’ body language and behavior, and understand when and how a compliment works, you will find the right words to say.

Appearance Compliments

The observant practitioner will notice the patient who takes great pride in their dress and knows that they truly appreciate recognition for all the time and effort and money that went into their outfit and accessories.

The elderly man or woman may wear a nice hat or scarf that coordinates perfectly with their outfit. Recognition of the effort expended in preparing for a visit with the doctor by offering a compliment is greatly appreciated.


“My, what a lovely outfit, Mrs. Jones.”

Those few words just made someone’s day, and they will love you forever. The astute practitioner recognizes all sorts of things like this, and while the object of the compliment doesn’t have to please your personal taste, the offering is still very effective.

While you may not personally relish tattoos, whenever someone has a particularly large one, consider a compliment. They saved three weeks salary to get this demon from hell breathing lightning bolts from oversized nostrils painted indelibly on their calf, and they wear shorts in the dead of winter to it show off. You better believe they love that you noticed the masterpiece (who could miss it) and told them how you really like the vivid colors.

You should make a concerted effort to give physical compliments whenever they are apropos. Offer compliments about hairstyle (your hair looks great!) or color (you have the most lovely blonde hair); clothing and accessories (that dress is stunning on you; I love those jeans; that is such a great pocketbook); eye color (you have the most beautiful blue eyes); and anything you think the patient takes pride in. Just be careful not to make your friendly compliments too personal, so they can’t be mistaken for a sexual advances.

Behavior Compliments

Even more appreciated are compliments about how the patient performs at the visit. This form of encouragement goes a long way in helping your patients through difficult procedures. The more frightened the patient, the more they appreciate being told how well they are doing. Not only will they love the compliment, they will actually try to live up to your praise–making your job easier.

Every patient who works with you deserves compliments throughout the treatment. What doctors eventually take for granted because they do it everyday may be a monumental difficulty for the average patient.

Here are just a few compliments you could offer throughout the day.

You are doing great. You are the best patient I’ve seen today. I can’t believe how well you are doing. I can’t believe you never had root canal therapy before. I’ve seen an awful lot of patients over the years and not many are as good as you. Mary, do you believe how well Jim is doing? (Mary is your assistant).

There are several funny compliments presented in the chapter on comedy that work fine, too. If you stay attuned to people’s appearance and behavior, you can learn to compliment many of the things that make your patients feel good.

• Gabriela (2021/03/09 22:12)
This is really interesting, I feel like I am not to good complimenting adults, other than during anesthesia were I make sure I accompanied them by saying something like I know this part is hard you are doing awesome! I will make sure to compliment them from time to time during the root canal so they feel like their effort is noticed. We do see a large number of kids at the clinic and I have noticed they respond really good to compliments, as soon as you tell them something like wooow you are doing better than most adults they feel proud of themselve and focus in keeping the good work throughout the procedure (not without asking how good are they doing from time to time :D) Regarding appearance compliments I might have been limiting myself to avoid missinterpretations but I will try to start doing that so that patients feel a little bit more noticed
• Jane (2021/03/09 19:34)
A compliment can set the tone of the appointment with something positive. Often the patient is coming to see the doctor because of a problem, and compliments can help ease the patient\'s fears and anxieties about the appointment.
• Craig C (2021/03/08 16:32)
One of the things I try to do every time I remember is to thank and praise a patient for arriving early. At our institution tardiness can be a real problem and can interfere with getting patients out of pain. Thanking and praising a patient who arrives early will hopefully reinforce the behavior. This exchange serves a similar purpose to a compliment. I find compliments about clothing, shoes etc to be particularly helpful when engaging child aged patients. It gets them into a conversation and gets their mind off of the dental treatment.
• Andrew (2021/03/07 16:41)
I have been thoroughly surprised how far a well executed compliment could go in building patient rapport. I was never observant, in my youth, but have found that it could be the difference between a smooth patient visit and a stressful one!

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