Truly a Compliment?

Updated on June 17, 2013
M.L. asks from Conneaut, OH
17 answers

There are a few people in my life that have mentioned the compliments they get for certain looks.

ex: a co worker from a prior job would say she gets lots of compliments on her Crystal Gale Hair down past her butt.

a grandma at soccer practice mentioned how the guys love it when she wears her bikini.

another aquantaince says she is most often complimented on her make up.

i know that it's just my opinion but i wouldn't say these were the womans best features just their more noticable or unusal ones.

so i wonder, when you compliment people is it because they truly have something about them that is wonderful, or are you maybe looking for a conversation starter or are maybe you picking up on something that is a little out of the norm???

There are lots of wonderful things about the 3 ladies i mentioned but it just makes me curious if they are rocking those looks because THEY like them or if they do it because they think they are getting affirmation from other people.

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So What Happened?

Laurie i totally agree, i was thinking back and the last few compliments i paid people were totally based on their behavior how kind they were to someone and how dedicated another person is to teaching her kids manners, those sorts of things.

So when i was talking to a relative that was going on about her compliments i was really kind of puzzled, maybe it's her low selfesteem?

Featured Answers



answers from Los Angeles on

I like to give compliments. I think there is nearly always something good to find in a person. I like to do it to make them feel good, happy, and to make their life just a little brighter. I don't make things up through. I don't have to.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

A persons personality is what I tend to compliment on. If someone looks extra dressed, I will mention, woo, you look great, I love that color on you.. Or whatever. You are glowing in that outfit today..

But How kind, How clever, how, caring, helpful, polite, articulate. I am all over that.

I admire people that can gracefully handle a situation, who can hold it together in a stressful situation..

Who can organize a group.. leadership with grace.

And love I catching children and teens, being extra special in their behaviors. Acknowledging them and then letting their parents know how great their children are.

6 moms found this helpful

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answers from Williamsport on

Sometimes I give a compliment because I know it will brighten someone's day. Does that mean I always REALLY love the extreme manicure on the drive thru lady? No, but I also don't dislike it...I sort of do like it, and I want to be nice if she put that much work into it. I also give sincere compliments when I really like something. I never give totally fake compliments, because often a compliment is just your choice to appreciate something about someone and say so. Sometimes I do purposely look for something to compliment. Does that make it fake if I wasn't truly blind-sided by the person's amazing new shoes or hair color? Then guilty of being fake as charged. But even if someone gives me a fake compliment in an effort to be nice....heck..there's worse things people can do. I'll take it graciously :)

As for your examples, yes, people probably just comment on those things because they stand out...but who knows, some people may really like those things.

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answers from Phoenix on

If I have something nice to say, I usually say it. Unless I think opposing counsel has a nice tush or something...I might keep that to myself :)

I have had strangers look at me a little strange when I compliment them, but I really don't see the harm in being nice to someone. My favorite compliments are compliments to my kids. Maybe I am superficial, but I will take compliments on their hair, eyes, looks, brains, behavior, any of it! I grew them, I will take that compliment!

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answers from Dallas on

I get compliments on my hair. I have always worm my hair this way, because I WANT to wear it that way. It's nice to receive a compliment, but I don't wear my hair for other people. I kinds forget about compliments like that quickly, but on an especially terrible's a nice little pick me up.

I will say, there IS a difference between comparisons of features, and actual compliments. "Your hair is so long and beautiful." "Wow! Your hair looks just like Crystal Gale." See what I mean? One is a compliment, one is an observation. People really mix the two up. Often, people want to HEAR a compliment, so they misconstrue and observation. "You do your makeup well" is different then, "You look great today, your makeup really brings out your beautiful features." However, if someone wants to hear it, they will mix up the fist observation, with the second compliment.

I don't always get to see how people "are." I don't get to see their behavior, actions, or grace in situations. I believe we can always be more kind. If I see someone with an especially lovely feature and we strike up a conversation, I will complement them. Who knows...they might feel extremely crappy about how they look that day. Everyone should feel good about themselves. Perhaps, my compliment gave a pep to their step. I never give a false compliment to start a conversation. I give a compliment, when something is really wonderful. Whether that be physical, or otherwise.

Everyone has different love languages. Some people need words and compliments about their features. Some people need them about their actions. Some people (like me) don't need words at all. We ALL should be told we have beautiful eyes, hair, smile, attire, whatever...every so often.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I can't speak for anyone else but I never hand out a compliment unless I mean it.

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answers from Portland on

I think it really depends on the situation. I've complimented a total stranger (standing in the same line at a restaurant) on her rainboots because I wanted a pair myself and wanted the information. I might compliment someone familiar on a new haircut or new blouse/outfit that catches my eye IF I like it.

My favorite compliments are those that really build people up. Recently a mom I was volunteering with was able to help a kid who rarely spoke to anyone and it was awesome to turn to that other woman afterward and say 'Wow! She really trusted you to help her with that, Annie! That's huge!"

I tend to compliment children far more often on their kindness or graciousness more often than I will their appearance. When I see a child holding the door open for others, I always take a moment to say "thanks, that's very kind of you" because that doesn't happen as often as the pushing and shoving to get through does. Or if they are having to be patient while I fix something (our school library computer is slow, tetchy and demanding) I always tell them "Thank you for being so patient!"

I do think people tend to stick with things that give them positive strokes, but I have a feeling that in the situations you describe, those women wouldn't have amazingly long hair, wear a bikini or take the trouble of putting on lots of makeup for everyone else. At least, I wouldn't!

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answers from Kansas City on

I try not to give the vague "observation" compliments.
Like "You got your hair cut!" If I really don't care for it.
That's almost like a non compliment.

In the case if the Crystal Gale hair? Who really "likes" hair that extreme, so I'd bet her compliments are more observation. Who knows?

I think the REAL lost art is gracefully accepting a compliment. So few people can just smile & say "thank you" without adding on something like "oh--I got these for $12 on clearance" or "had to do something--my hairs SO fine/straight/frizzy/unmanageable..." Know what I mean?

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answers from Hartford on

Why do you assume that the compliments given for features that you believe aren't the best features about someone aren't genuine compliments? The person giving the compliment may in fact think it's much more lovely/comely/handsome/pretty/beautiful/attractive than you do.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Most people "rock a look" and keep it for a long time because they're getting something out of it. What does it matter the why if it isn't harming anyone? And are the compliments harming anyone?

Just like with Very Bad Baby Names, I think this just falls under "Not My Style."

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answers from Washington DC on

I think there are two layers to these "compliments."

1) Often people just want to COMMENT on something unusual about a person, so they phrase it as a compliment to make it socially acceptable. "Oh wow, what a pretty eye-shadow color!" instead of "Good Lord! That is an insanely bright color on your face!" or "Nice bikini." instead of "Why are YOU wearing a bikini?"

2) When people like something about themselves, even a comment without judgment attached (just a statement not a compliment or a critique) will be HEARD as a compliment. "Your hair is very long." Doesn't mean the other person thinks it looks GOOD, but if YOU think long=good, you'll hear a compliment where none was given.

At least the fodder for these compliments are CHOICES the women are making. I hate compliments about things that are basically organic to people... still I'm with you that compliments about behaviors or the outcome of hardwork are much more meaningful. My son gets a lot of compliments (as I did growing up) for how he LOOKS and for being "smart" neither one of which he chose, so it isn't much of a compliment. We usually try to accept the "compliment" mentioning something related that's more real "thanks, my mom twists my hair for me." or "thanks, I've been learning about ___" etc.

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answers from Houston on

Like MyMission, I tend to always compliment senior citizens. When I stop at Luby's to get a Sunday meal and see an older lady or man who obviously just came from worship--I always say, Of wow you look pretty or sharp. They beam!

I think that I compliment other folks as a way to win friends. It is usually not sincere... I do it because I know that opens a door to a possible friendship.

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answers from St. Louis on

I am very stingy with compliments so if I say it, I mean it.

I get a lot of compliments on my hair. I have beautiful hair, it is long curly red brown hair. I think it looks good on me, I assume god thought it went with my features, but whether or not someone compliments it because they wish they had it or because it looks so good on me, well I really don't care.

I smile, say thank you, and forget about it five minutes later.

Now when they actually start playing with my hair, I dwell on that for a long time wondering what happened to personal boundaries....

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answers from Dallas on

I think Laurie's way of acknowledging good behavior is a choice from with in and complimenting on that is a great self esteem builder. Many people benefit from those choices but few acknowledge it. How many leaders get a thank you from anybody but other leaders?

But we don't always get to see these things. For instance, sometimes I know how important looks are to an older lady at church because that's obvious where they put their time by the finished project. I make sure I acknowledge that. It's just a kind thing to do. We all need a boost of self confidence. Not self esteem, self confidence is what they are looking for.

I read a book once that said we should love people the way that God does, just because. Without regard for production or abilities. So sometimes I am looking for a way to love them just because. I have no idea about their struggles or lack of support or knowledge to turn out a good product or show awesome abilities. Or their potential to do that in the future. But I do know how to love on them today. It could look superficial to you but that's where we are right now. I'm going for that, today.

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answers from Kansas City on

Well maybe you don't think those are their best features, but maybe the person that paid them the compliment does. That's what makes the world go round!! I think my husband looks awesome, but maybe some other people might not think so. See what I mean? Anyway, I give compliments for various reasons, and some that you mentioned. And I don't give compliments that I don't mean. And they are nice too when you give one and a conversation starts. And some people are weird too, and do weird stuff just to get people to notice them.

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answers from Grand Forks on

I can see why these types of compliments are given even if they are not the persons best feature. They are all things that the individual has control over. I am not likely to complement someone on the colour of their eyes or the symmetry of their facial features because they did not do anything to make these features beautiful, it just happened due to genetics. But for a grandma to rock a bikini takes a certain amount of effort to keep in shape, growing long hair and keeping it healthy and shiny takes some commitment and work and the expert application of make-up takes a certain amount of skill. So maybe it is not necessarily the look that is being complimented, but the effort taken to achieve the look.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

I compliment people on what I notice about them that makes a positive impression on me at that particular moment.

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answers from Houston on

When I compliment, it's for something that *I* like. That is not to be confused with something remarkable. I might point out somehing that I notice about someone, and they might hear me saying that I like it. For some people, just noticing is the compliment. These are what they find remarkable about themselves, so any attention for it is complimentary. Sometimes, communication is so...weird...and rushed that we don't really listen to or hear each other at all.

Maybe these are actual compliments; maybe they are just remarks indicating that they've been noticed, taken as compliments. For example, the Crystal Gale hair might be complimented for how healthy it looks. Maybe the people who talk to her about it are people who admire that she's been able to maintain the health at that length, maybe from people who have their own hair issues. For the bikini grandmother, maybe the guys like the way she looks. Maybe they just like her confidence, or just the fact that there's skin to gawk at. Maybe when they see her in her bikini, they imagine that she is a woman enjoying her life and willing to step outside the societal norm to have a good time. It might not matter at all to them what she looks like. And then, regarding the make-up does it look? Many women aren't good at applying make-up/glamour, and they marvel at women who can. They really notice if they like something. Some women look through magazines for tips and ideas for applying make-up.

You notice what interests you. I'm a shoe lover. I notice a shoe--style, quality, comfort, how it matches the outfit or the occasion, how it matches the personality of the the wearer walks and feels in it versus out of it.... I make a whole slew of judgments while watching a shoe go by, and sometimes people are surprised when I remark that I "like" their shoes. What that actually means to me is that "I'm enjoying the experience of watching you WEAR (a big word) your shoes." The shoes don't have to be brand new or "different". Somebody else, including the wearer, might not see it.

I don't look for conversation starters because I typically do not like to talk to people I don't know. I get that you're just being curious, but maybe you should ask them about it at some point. Ask them what THEY like about those features, and listen to how they respond to you. You might get your answer right from the horses' mouths.

ETA: Omg, Thea, you've captured it! Just ditto your entire reply, but especially number 2...much clearer and more succinct than mine.

I might remark on a smile that really caught my attention in a positive way. I don't mean it as a compliment necessarily, but it's not up to me to determine what that type of remark might mean to them from moment to moment.

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