The Fine Art of the Compliment

“Your hair looks really nice,” my friend said to me when she saw my new haircut.  Then she added, “You’ve needed a new hairstyle for a long time.”

Though my friend was smiling as she spoke, I didn’t feel particularly complimented.  That is because my friend is not polished in the art of the compliment.

The person skilled in paying compliments knows not only what to say but also what not to say.  Consider these suggestions and examples.

  1. Let a nice compliment stand alone.  Say, “You chose a very nice dress to wear to your daughter’s wedding.”  Don’t add, “Remember how we laughed last year when you wore that circus tent to your son’s wedding?”
  2. Keep the compliment short.  Say, “Your new hair color is very attractive.”  Do not say, “Your new hair color is very attractive, but I wouldn’t be brave enough to have it myself.”
  3. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.  When your friend returns from a week at the beach with her skin burnt the color of Georgia red clay, her hair the color and texture of old straw from too much sun exposure, and a nasty rash on her face from eating raw shellfish, say, “Welcome home!”  Do not add the words: “You look great!”
  4. Choose your words carefully.  You may say, “Your sister Pam is very smart and talented.”  Do not add, “The two of you are nothing alike.”
  5. Use a little tact.  Say, “Your essay is wonderful!”  Don’t say, “Your essay is wonderful, but would you like for me to clean up the punctuation for you?”
  6. Don’t “use” a compliment to serve yourself, as in this example.  “Since you’re so good with kids, I suggested to the youth minister that you would be a better nursery supervisor for the next six months than I would be.”

Remember also that there is an art to receiving a compliment.  You’re always safe if you say, “Thank you,” and leave it at that.  Again, consider these suggestions and examples.

Don’t lie.  When a friend tells you that she likes your dress, do not say, “I’ve had this old thing forever but I just don’t wear it much.”  Remember that she may have seen the dress in the shop where you bought it last week.

Avoid responding to a compliment by saying something like, “Oh, you’re just saying that.”  Such a response suggests that you believe the one giving the compliment is, at best, insincere, or, at worst, an outright liar.

Do not “use” the compliment in an effort to get something that the person who complimented you did not intend to offer.  Don’t say, “I am glad you like the curtains I made for my living room.  Would you like me to make curtains for you?  My prices are very reasonable.”

Don’t take a compliment too far.  If your friend says she likes your new coasters, do not scoop them up, drop them into her lap, and say, “Here.  You take them.  I insist.”

In conclusion, I offer this compliment to you, my faithful readers. “You’re the best!”  (Cue:  The proper response for you to make is, “Thank you.”)

©Debbie Scales    December 6, 2015     536 Words


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