All compliments are good. OK, the backhanded ones suck, but I trust you’re not running around dishing those out. My impression is that the majority of compliments given and received in this world are earnest and well-intentioned, and I think of them as tiny, self-generated miracles. Never underestimate the transformative power of a compliment, my friends. Just about every time you tell another human being, “Hey! I like you, and I like what you’re doing,” you’re changing that person’s life for the better, even if they don’t yet realize it. Every time you muster up the courage to praise another person, you’re doing the world a service by bolstering that person’s confidence and self-esteem.
The style blogging world is a giant sea of compliments, as you can imagine. I estimate that I’ve issued about 50,000 compliments to my fellow bloggers over the years – no lie – and I imagine I’ve racked up similarly impressive compliment stats for myself right here. Yet it was only recently that I began to consider tweaking how I issued my compliments. I realized that what I wanted to compliment was the PERSON, not the object, and that subtle turns of phrase could help me achieve that goal.
If a friend says, “You look lovely today,” I assume she is being extremely sweet and going out of her way to praise me. But I know that compliments in that vein can sometimes be construed as comparative, leaving the recipient wondering, “As opposed to other days, when I look a mess?” I’ve never felt that way myself, but know it’s one interpretation. Saying, “You look particularly lovely today,” or “You look even lovelier than usual today,” sweeps away any doubts.
“I love your new haircut,” will bolster anyone’s confidence, but “Your new haircut is so chic/flattering/perfect on you” relates the compliment more directly to its recipient. It’s not just the haircut you’re digging, it’s how that ‘do looks on its new owner.
The model I struggle with is the simple garment-focused compliment. “That blouse looks amazing on you,” seems like a fantastic thing to say to someone, but the focus is mainly on the blouse, not the wearer. “You look amazing in that blouse,” shifts the focus to wearer, but could imply that the blouse is doing some much-needed heavy lifting. Either model is likely to prompt a positive response, so I’m probably just over-thinking this one.
Again, any compliment offered in good faith will boost your karma, guaranteed. None of these examples is anything but beneficial, and all genuine compliments constitute acts of praise-worthy kindness. But if your goal is to make sure the recipient feels your praise as directly as possible, it can help to phrase your compliment to focus on the person instead of trappings, actions, or peripheral issues.
Originally posted 2011-07-18 06:18:49.