The 5 Cs aren’t enough; Singaporeans need the 6th C

Give praise when due. (Getty Images)Give praise when due. (Getty Images)

In February, I wrote about the new 5 Cs that will actually make us happy Singaporeans:

  • Compare less
  • Cherish what you have
  • Choose your attitude
  • Complain less
  • Change your circumstances and yourself

I'm pleasantly surprised to see that the article has received more than 400 comments and has been shared 8,200 times on Facebook!

Clearly, the “5 Cs” is something that’s close to Singaporeans’ hearts.

The 6th C that I missed out: Compliment others

Soon after the article was published, I had a conversation with my cousin.

He said, “Daniel, you missed out one ‘C’. We should compliment others more. That’s something we don’t do enough of in Singapore.”

I spent the next few days reflecting on what my cousin had said.

My cousin was right: It’s not part of Singaporean culture to compliment others.

(In this article, I’m referring to genuine compliments, not false praise that you might give your boss or teacher if you’re trying to get into his or her good books.)

When was the last time you heard someone say…

  • “You gave such a well-organized and persuasive presentation just now”
  • “Your report was both informative and clearly written”
  • “You facilitated the discussion skillfully”
  • “You led your project team effectively”
  • “The meal you cooked was delicious”
  • “Good effort”
  • “I’m proud of you”?

Why we don’t compliment others

I’m not saying that we never, ever speak kind words to our friends, colleagues or family members.

I’m just saying that we ought to do it more often if we want to build a happier Singapore.

Here are some possible reasons why we don’t make many positive remarks:

  • We tend to focus on the negative
  • We’re quick to criticize
  • We’re competitive people who find it unnatural to acknowledge it when others perform better than us
  • We like to complain
  • We don’t make an intentional effort to take notice of others’ admirable qualities
  • When things go well, we assume that that’s the expected result anyway, so there’s no need to pay a compliment

Benefits of giving compliments

No matter what the reasons are that we don’t give more compliments, we all like receiving them.

As someone who does a lot of speaking and writing, I’ll admit that sincere compliments make my day!

We can make someone else’s day by paying him or her a compliment.

Moreover, giving compliments has many benefits.

It boosts your mood, improves communication with the other party, and gets you into the habit of looking for the good in others.

It helps you to get beyond yourself and focus on other people. It increases your awareness that life isn’t mainly about you. It makes you a more generous person.

It reminds you that kindness is of vital importance, despite the fact that we can easily get caught up with our individual pursuit of success.

Most of all, it makes our society happier, gentler and more appreciative.

What you can do today

I hope you’re convinced that the 6th C is something that all of us should aspire towards.

The best thing is that it’s completely free! (And if there’s something that we Singaporeans like—myself included—it’s free stuff.)


If you enjoy your next meal, tell the chef (who might even be your parent, spouse or domestic helper).

If someone helps you, write a thank-you note.

If your colleague does a solid job with a sales presentation, send a congratulatory email.

If you’re grateful for a friendship, send a text message and tell that person so.

When we combine the new 5 Cs with this 6th C, we’ll be well on our way to finding the happiness and fulfillment that we’re looking for as a society.

One day a time, one compliment at a time.

Daniel Wong is a learning and personal development expert, as well as a certified youth counselor. A sought-after speaker and coach, he is also the best-selling author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He offers programmes to help students attain exam excellence while also finding happiness and fulfillment, and to empower parents to motivate their unmotivated teenagers. He writes regularly at Download his FREE e-books, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?" and "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision". The views expressed are his own.

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