Compliments are meant to make people feel good. To give them a boost of self-confidence and express admiration or appreciation. While this basic principle seems pretty simple to put into practice, it’s surprisingly easy to miss the mark.
Some common compliments aren’t actually that flattering when you really consider what’s being said. Here are some things you probably think are compliments but are actually subtly offensive.
1. I really like how you don’t care what people think of you.
Most people do care what society thinks. It’s why we’re not all running around wearing potato sacks and defecating in the streets. The average person doesn’t want to be told that their rushed Monday-morning hairstyle looks like a political statement.
This comment can easily be interpreted as, „it’s cool you don’t care what other people think because they obviously wouldn’t approve of what you’re doing.“
Unless the person you’re speaking to makes a point of proudly giving society the finger on a daily basis (and we’re talking about more than just wearing black with navy), then don’t expect to be thanked for this one.
2. You look great for your age.
Beauty isn’t exclusive to youth, and no one wants to hear that they’re beautiful despite something else.
3. You’re pretty when you smile.
No matter how well-intentioned this line is, what the other person is hearing in their head is: „but you look like a cabbage otherwise.“
Besides implying that the person isn’t as good-looking with a straight face, suggesting that someone smile more can actually be a manipulative and damaging remark.
It’s not cool to tell someone how to use their body, including their smile. Giving unsolicited instructions to a person about how you think they should look, think, or feel is rude at best and controlling at worst.
If you think someone should smile more, make sure you’re fun to be around.
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Source: Business insider