just a thought – compliment culture

One of my favourite aspects of the fashion industry is what passes for small talk. Small talk is usually nobody’s favourite activity, however in the fashion industry, instead of talking about the weather or the traffic, it is traditional to observe something that you like about the other person’s appearance, and compliment them on it. It is flattering, it is fun, it is positive, and sure, it can be back-handed, but as far as small talk goes it doesn’t get any better than that.

Considering that giving compliments costs absolutely nothing, and totally makes everyone’s day, they can be surprisingly rare in regular life. Not only are they a great way to show appreciation to people, they are a wonderful way to introduce yourself.  Looking for opportunities to give compliments encourages you to listen and observe others more closely and signals that you are a generous, open person.  Here are my thoughts on the best ways to offer compliments:

  • Be sincere! Don’t give compliments you don’t mean, it devalues the act of complimenting.  Don’t give half-hearted compliments, if there really isn’t anything nice you want to say to someone, why are you even talking to them?
  • Pay attention to details – if they have flaming red hair or are wearing a giant fur coat, they will always receive compliments about that thing.  Look for the less obvious flare and you will be remembered for your keen eye, and for being different.
  • What is different? If you can pick out a new haircut, manicure, glasses frames, or shoes on a familiar friend, it not only shows you appreciate them, it demonstrates how well you know them.
  • Listen instead of look. Its easy to take a look at someone and tell them what you like, but the next level is engaging them in conversation long enough that you can compliment them on their character.  Do they tell delightful anecdotes, do they have a great memory, are they considerate, do they have a fascinating life story, do they have impressive expertise, a way with words, or a devastating sense of humour? Why not let them know you noticed?
  • Follow through – don’t just give a compliment, try to use it as an icebreaker to open up a conversation about something real – take it from small talk to real talk.

Further to that, receiving compliments also has its own set of best practices:

  • Say thank you! Always receive a compliment in the same good spirit it was given.
  • Never contradict a compliment. Don’t put yourself down. Negative self-talk is toxic stuff and it is a total turn off. Treat yourself with the same social grace you would extend to anyone – that means no put downs or name calling, ever.
  • Reciprocate! Return the favour.

There aren’t very many pitfalls to complimenting – I guess if you do it too much it would seem weird, and making observations about people’s bodies can be awkward, tricky territory, but those things are just common sense.

Love getting compliments? Adorn yourself with interesting and unusual accessories and garments that make you feel confident and powerful, especially ones that have a story behind them. Be brave and get statement hair. Take good care of your skin and health. Smile and have a good time, dance if you feel like dancing, be social and daring, adventurous and open, and above all, generous with yourself and your words.

What is the greatest compliment you’ve ever received?

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3 thoughts on “just a thought – compliment culture”

  1. Good stuff, D! We all need to give/get more positivity. 🙂

    Lately, I’ve been getting a blend of “you are such a lady” mixed with “you are so childlike” — letting me know my eval plans are on the right track.

  2. I frequently compliment peoples clothes because they listen carefully, thinking she should know she’s in the business. It’s my strong belief that everyone must learn to trust their instincts and feel good about their clothing choices in order to keep themselves from shopping for a new wardrobe every weekend.

    I get the most compliments from my husband, many and elaborate ones, embarrassing at times but still good to hear.

  3. I’ve never really thought about it, but it’s so true! In fact, I can’t even think of too many other ways that conversations start at fashion events.

    The best compliment I’ve received lately was after a long day at the One of a Kind Show, I had taken one of my own dresses to wear in red- as a switch from my usual blue or black, and a man walked past and just said ‘Wow! That red really makes you pop!” Needless to say, I’ve been wearing a lot more of my red dresses since 🙂

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