How to Give a Compliment

In the world of women, compliments are a tricky business. There is a fine line between making someone smile or scarring them for life. I am here to clear up any confusion you may have about giving sincere, or at least sincere sounding, compliments.

A compliment is: “an expression of praise, commendation, or admiration”.  

A compliment is not an opportunity to subtly imply that a person is a moron, or to finagle them into giving you a compliment, otherwise known as ‘fishing’.

It occurred to me, the other day, as I was on the awkward end of what I can only assume was meant to be a compliment, that perhaps the problem was that the individual proffering said compliment didn’t know how to give one.

The giving of a compliment should be a happy occasion on both sides of the compliment.  Evil glee on one side, and awkward self-doubt on the other, is NOT a compliment, it’s revenge.

We have turned over a new leaf here. We are against revenge.

We are a on journey for inner peace, and enlightenment. We are all freaking Zen over here.

That being said, we still received a compliment that left us wondering what the crap the person was thinking.

Here was the compliment:  “You look really good today. Do you work now?”

Excuse me, but,


Let’s take a look at where the compliment went awry.

It started strong: “You look really good”,

That is a good compliment. I like being told I look good. I could smile after a compliment like that.

 then it sort of veered off course with: Today.

What the crap is that supposed to mean? Today? What about yesterday? And the day before that? I can tell you, I put a half decent amount of effort into my appearance EVERY day.

Next: “Do you work?”

You know you can’t win with that, right? If I was a stay-at-home mom without a full-time daycare in her home I would be a person who did a huge amount of work, albeit unsalaried. However, I am at home, operating a 7am-6pm childcare/preschool for money. I’m pretty sure that also qualifies as a huge amount of work.

And finally, my favorite part: “Now”.

As if what I’ve done AAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL these years, up to this point, is not work.

So, here are my How To Give A Compliment directions.

First, think carefully how this will sound coming out of your mouth. Preview the compliment.

Second, skip the qualifiers.

Third, be nice. Actual nice, not fake nice.

If you are complimenting their appearance, be certain you are not violating any sexual harassment rules in your workplace. Everyone take a big fat PASS on commenting, compliment or no, on someone’s body. There is no way you can know for certain what someone’s body is doing, so just skip it. Seriously, no weight loss, pregnancy, etc. IF you have very good complimenting skills, you may try a hair compliment.

Things you might compliment include their possesions:

Nice car! Nice house! Nice outfit! Cool dog!

Their baby;

What an adorable baby! What a cute baby! What a good baby!

Their accessories;

Nice purse! Cool watch! Love the earrings!

See how we are leaving out all the qualifiers and quid pro quo? Here are some examples of bad compliments.

Such a cute baby, does he look like your husband? (because you are not that cute)

What a lovely watch, did someone give it to you? (you don’t have good enough taste to buy a watch like that)

That’s a cute purse, of course, it’s not MY style. (it’s not anyone’s style, it’s hideous)

Those are nice earrings, did you see the earring MY husband gave me? (because we make wayyyyyy more money than you and now you may feel free to tell me how fabulous my earrings are)

You look so beautiful pregnant! (except she’s not pregnant)

See what I mean?

Really. What kind of compliment do YOU want? Say those kinds of things!

I may just be sensitive, but I do get a little weary trying to find the compliment, if there is one, in a sea of ‘not quite’.

In the words of Sweet Brown:




This entry was posted in Maren's posts and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *