A culture of compliments can make people feel more connected and appreciated. However, if you notice that the recipient is uncomfortable or deflecting your praise, try to move on with grace. It’s possible that the person is sensitive about their appearance or is just not used to getting compliments on their appearance. Vulnerable topics like these can be challenging for some people, so it’s important not to push it if you sense that they’d rather change the subject than accept your praise.
For many people, being told they have a pretty face or shiny hair may feel like a shallow compliment and lead them to wonder what else is of value about them if it’s not their appearance.
It’s tempting to compliment a friend, a co-worker, or anyone else you encounter in the world on how good they look. But that kind of praise can make someone feel like their appearance is the most important thing about them.
There are many other ways to compliment someone besides pointing out physical attributes. Telling someone, they look pretty can remind them that you are being judged and evaluated every time they walk into a room and that they have to put in the effort to be perceived as beautiful. I typically avoid commenting on a person’s appearance altogether because I want people to know how much more there is to them than how they look.
Here are a few ways to compliment without mentioning appearance:
- Compliment them based on how they make you feel (e.g. “You’re great at making newcomers feel welcome”)
- Compliment personality-based traits (e.g. “You’re such a great listener!”)
- Notice when someone puts effort into something (e.g. “I appreciate how much thought you put into your presentation at last week’s meeting”)
- Compliment achievements (e.g. “That was an amazing article!”)
We all have the best of intentions when we tell someone they look nice, but the truth is, beauty is more than skin deep. We don’t want to make people feel like your appearance is their most valuable quality because it isn’t.
This is especially true for women, who are bombarded with unrealistic images of how a woman “should” look. These images can make people feel judged and inadequate, making them feel bad about themselves, which is detrimental to self-esteem and mental well-being.
It’s also essential to remember that beauty is subjective! What one person thinks looks good might not be what another person thinks looks good. So there’s no reason to focus on appearances as much as we do!
So how do we get around this? It’s actually quite simple. You can compliment a person on their interests and talents, whether that be art, sports or video games. You could also praise them for their personality or sense of humour. I’m sure they’re hilarious and interesting! You can even compliment someone on their intelligence or creativity because these are better compliments than “You have nice eyes.”
Even if you want to be more direct and still compliment appearance, try praising something not physical, like someone’s sense of style instead of their face shape. Think about what people put effort into: maybe it’s their hair or clothes, but it could also be their career goals or something else entirely. Your comment will help them feel validated in whatever they are working on!
There are plenty of ways to compliment someone without mentioning their appearance. Here are a few examples:
- If someone is on stage performing and you admire their work, compliment the performance itself. It’s really that simple!
- If you like someone’s picture because it makes them look happy and confident, let them know that’s why their picture resonated with you.
- If you see someone taking risks, working hard, or achieving success in an area they’re passionate about, let them know how inspiring they are!
When we stop tying our worth to our looks so much, we can start doing meaningful things in our lives instead of being tied down by body image issues.