Has nothing to do with her looks. And yet we insist on greeting each other with the passive aggressive “Hi! You look great!! Have you lost weight?!?” This phenomenon has been documented by writers of greater insight and humor than myself, so we will acknowledge the lameness of this anti-compliment and move right on to what to do instead.
There are two problems with the “you look fab” method of greeting. One is that it is used so often as to be hopelessly generic and insincere. Two is that it reduces someone to the part of them they have the least control over.
I’m Hot, You’re Hot, We’re All Hot
Occasionally people use this remark sincerely. Like you grandmother. You should always believe your grandmother when she tells you that you look lovely. Or your mom. We mothers carried you for 10 (that’s right, do the math) months and deserve to think we made the most beautiful creation on God’s green earth. From everyone else though this “compliment” generally comes across as anything but. Especially so if we just heard you great the person before us in this exact same way. Or if we’re wearing our PMS sweats and have a huge zit. We all know that we don’t look fabulous, feisty and thin all the time so please save this compliment for when you really do mean it.
And that’s the rub. We all love to hear we look fabulous. And sometimes we really do! But it’s like frosting shots – every day just makes us sick. You gotta spread out the love. Save it for a special occasion.
If you want to up the sincere factor, don’t just say, “You look great!” Tell us what exactly it is that caught your eye. Something like “I love your jewelry” or “your skin glows like a thousand splendid suns – but not the book because while that book was awesome it was kind of gritty and so totally not like your skin.”
Last tip: no squealing while complimenting unless you are 13 and O.D. on Gossip Girls, in which case you probably know no other means of communication and thereby get a pass. And maybe a telethon. What? Someone has to help these teens.
We Are All So Much More Than Hot
Once you’ve mastered the sincere looks compliment, you are advanced enough to move up to a real compliment. See, I get that in our society, a woman’s looks are often considered her ultimate achievement but save for Jocelyn Wildenstein most of us do not have an active part in how we spun out in the genetic lottery.
I know that some of you will say “but I exercise! I eat right! I work darn hard to look this awesome!” To which I say, of course you do, girl!! And that is why I will compliment you on your strength gained from your unflinching dedication to the ‘bells or your intelligence which you showcase by being able to make cocktail party chatter about the latest nutrition research or even you’re fortitude and character for being able to stick with something that is not fun all the time but is good for your health. Those are all traits you have honed through your hard work. Nobody gave that to you. And that is compliment worthy!
Other things worth complimenting are everything from the very specific: “That contralto solo you sang in 8th grade choir still gives me chills remembering it.” to the very broad: “I appreciate your meticulous honesty.” Even if you don’t know someone very well, surely you know something about them – and if you don’t, just ask! It takes a little more work to find something of the non-physical variety to compliment but it’s worth the effort because not only will it make you see your friends and acquaintances in a much more appreciative light but they will always remember it (unless you are creepy about it but that’s a whole ‘nother post). And not only will they remember the compliment, they will remember you with the same feeling the compliment gave them. Everybody wins!
My Fave Compliments:
I keep a gratitude journal and so when someone tells me something that really makes me glow inside, I make sure to write it down. (When someone tells me something truly awful about myself, I make sure to write it on paper, tie it around a brick, light it on fire and throw it through their window.) Here are a few that make me light up like a mercury filled CFCS bulb:
My Husband: How do you read so fast and still remember everything?
My Second Grade Teacher, Mr. Manley: You have an indomitable soul.
Gym Buddy Mike: Your back has such great muscle definition you could make a topographical map out of it!
My Son: You smell like love.
My Mom: You are beautiful.
So, your assignment is to leave me a comment with YOUR favorite compliment that someone has given you. If you need ideas, see below.
Compliments For You (in no particular order):
Let me preface this by saying that I really wanted to do this but am nervous that I might offend by either leaving off somebody or giving someone a compliment that they don’t find, well, complimentary. I’m going to take a gamble and do it anyhow. Because you guys mean so much to me. And because giving compliments makes me feel even better than getting them!
Gym Buddy Allison: There isn’t enough room to say all the great things about you. You are so willing to try anything I throw your way. You are kind to a fault. You are a great mom. You are the best friend a girl could ask for!
MizFit: You are the great unifier. You know and care about every blogger that crosses your path.
Leslie: You have an ability to write about touchy subjects with such warmth and sensitivity that everyone ends up feeling less alone.
Crabby: You manage to be humorous and vulnerable at the same time. Not easy!
Tokaiangel: I love your unflinching honesty.
Merry: Your dedication to finding the obscure is admirable.
Gena: Smart + Scientist + Girl = Every girl’s role model
GodivaGirl: Always positive, you:)
Gemfit: I love that you love twirly summer dresses too. Apparently we’re both 5 at heart.
Robin: You are so willing to share the struggles as well as the success.
Dr. J: A doctor whose wisdom is overshadowed only by his kindness.
Lethological Gourmet/Reader: Always insightful, always adds to the discussion. No fluff comments from you!
Judy: So willing to cheer everybody on.
Alice: Ascerbic wit.
Allie: Loyal as the day is long. Great with secrets. Very open minded.
Sagan: Always up for trying something new!
Gretchen: Fortitude. You never give up. You just keep trying until you find what works.
Jenn: Great with alternatives.
Azusmom: Gentle with everyone, even herself and that may be the best accomplishment of all!
Dislyxec: Lovely wit.
Illuminati: Nobody makes me snort milk out my nose like you do.
Kirez: Possibly the smartest human being I’ve ever met.
Andrew: Dedicated. Mile after mile. Never lets anything set him back!
Seabreeze: Always has a smile – although we only see the emoticon version, I’m sure the real one is just as often!
GeekGirl: I heart geeks. I am one. You are a running rockstar.
DarLee: Adaptable and resilient. You take everything that comes your way and just keep rolling.
TurboJennie: Strong, buff, tough. Take no prisoners attitude. And the never ending smile, no matter how your day has gone.
AT22: Always up for any experiment! Love your strength and your motivation.
Lucas: Somehow you always know the exact right thing to say to me. I suspect you are like this with everyone in your life.
KellyT: You are one funny chick. And I love that you take crap from no one.
Stephanie Quilao: Your willingness to put yourself out there. Your business savvy. Your care.
Laura: Smart. A prolific reader. An educated writer. Astute observer.
Fitarella: Energy for days!!!!
Kara: Manages to balance writing and mommyhood. Someday I will learn from you!
Cara: Great big soul and so willing to share it – both the good times and the bad.
Lisa: Always looks for the best in others.
Shellie: Great mom, informed about everything. The master of delayed gratification.
HungryWaif: Puts 100% into everything she does.
KatieO: Funny, mom of 3 boys, great writer – what’s not to love?