A recent post on Forever Amber about the things you should never say to someone got me thinking about some of the other things you should never say – especially when you’re trying to give someone a compliment about their appearance.
Here are some things people say that are supposed to be compliments, but which can sometimes just end up having the opposite effect…
01. “YOU’RE SO LUCKY YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH THAT: I’D JUST LOOK LIKE A FAT PIG IN IT!”
Most people don’t want to feel like they’re merely “getting away” with an otherwise awful outfit, but quite apart from that, complimenting someone by putting yourself down is just a bit awkward, isn’t it? There’s not much the person can say to it, after all, other than to frantically try to reassure you that you’re wrong (so congratulations for making it all about YOU, I guess…), and it’s also hard not to think there’s a subtle dig in there somewhere, and that if you think YOU’D look awful in the outfit, you probably think I look awful in it, too.
02. “YOU’RE SO BRAVE!”
Getting dressed in the morning shouldn’t really require “bravery”, so unless the person you’re speaking to is someone who deliberately sets out to shock, what you’ve just implied is that they’re wearing something no one in their right mind would even consider. Not exactly a compliment, is it?
03. “I WOULD NEVER WEAR THAT!”
Obviously everyone has different tastes and opinions, and that’s fine, but this implies judgement, and suggests that the person is doing something “wrong” by wearing something you wouldn’t. Adding, “but you look good in it, though!” doesn’t really help, because it always sounds like an afterthought, and something you’re saying just to soften the blow. If you really want to compliment someone, skip the “I’d never wear it” bit and just go with the, “you look great” part – voila, your compliment is no longer a backhanded one!
04. “I THOUGHT YOU LOOKED BETTER BEFORE”
Normally uttered when someone has changed their appearance in some way, and almost always hurtful: what do you expect them to do – change everything back just to suit you?
05. “ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO WEAR THAT?”
Well, I really was… until you made me feel like I was about to commit some kind of fashion crime, that is. Obviously if you think an outfit is absolutely indecent, or will break the dress code of the place you’re going or something, you should speak up to save the person embarrassment (although there’s got to be a more tactful way to say it, hasn’t there?). If it’s just not your taste, though, all you’re going to do here is make someone feel uncomfortable in something they were previously happy with: just let them wear what they want.
06. “OH, THAT MAKES YOU LOOK SO MUCH BETTER / SLIMMER / YOUNGER!”
This is the kind of compliment that’s usually well-intentioned, but which can easily backfire, because what you’re basically saying is that, until now, the person DIDN’T look slim/young/good/whatever. No one wants to think they looked “old” until they cut their hair, or “fat” until they put on that dress, do they? If you want to say something nice, just tell the person they look good – don’t imply that they didn’t before, or act shocked by it: no one will thank you for that kind of “compliment”.
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The fact is, of course, that while some of these comments can sound a little bit snide or backhanded, the majority of them probably DO come a place of good intention, so while I think it’s always a good idea to think about the things you say, and do your best not to inadvertently hurt someone, it’s ALSO a good idea to try not to take too much offence if you’re on the receiving end of a less-than-complimentary “compliment”.
With that said, can you think of any other “compliments” you’d rather not hear?