Many would think that compliments are simply saying nice words. Sounds easy, right? Not really. I am only bringing this up because it has been the topic of conversation lately in a number of situations. Not that I am an expert by any means, however, I think I can provide some very good guidelines to giving a proper compliment.
1) Make sure the comment is actually something that cannot be taken in any other way. I mentioned this way back when in another post about what NOT to say to a pregnant women (and if I didn't, I certainly meant to). Don't comment a woman on her belly size, no matter how you mean it. There's a good chance she'll take it the opposite. Be clear about what you are trying to say. Instead of "Your belly is so huge"(and you are meaning, wow that baby really is growing well), say "You just look so adorable/beautiful/whatever pregnant" Easy enough. Same goes for other situations.
2) On the same note, make sure the person understands slang. Example--my husband uses the word "sick" to mean incredible. If you don't know this and he were to say "Your outfit is SICK" you may not completely understand he means something good. Same thing when the word Fat/Phat was popular. Never ever should it have been a good thing to say "Girl, you look PHAT". Most normal women will only hear it as FAT.
3) Don't overcompliment. This is very very important. Complimenting too much just gets annoying and comes off fake. I know someone who is so complimentary that I feel like if she saw me wash my hands after going to the bathroom she would comment on how I am just a fabulous role model for my children...Compliments are nice, but when they are said at absolutely everything, you will get tuned out. Let me clarify--you can compliment all day if you want, just make sure it's different people and don't lay it on thick with just one. It comes off as stalkish and brown nosing.
4) Don't compliment only after someone has shown their insecurities. When you wait until someone says that they feel fat, feel ugly, hate what they are wearing....whatever, your compliment comes off as necessary, not honest. Random compliments work so much better.
5) Never use the word THAT in a compliment. I had a high school boyfriend say this to me and yeah, it just didn't mean that much: "You are not THAT ugly". Well thank you. You are not THAT much of a jerk. See?