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You know what’s a really cool thing to do? Lifting people’s spirits by paying them a nice (and probably unexpected) compliment. You know what’s less cool? Giving them a compliment that mentions their physical appearance. Why? Because you don’t know how they feel about their body at that moment. You don’t know what private battles or internal monologues they may be dealing with – your compliment could actually cause more harm than good, unless you choose your words carefully.
Imagine the scenario – you’ve bumped into an old friend, one you haven’t seen for a while. She has noticeably lost quite a lot of weight. She doesn’t ever talk about dieting or food related subjects.
You say “Wow! You’ve lost so much weight, you look amazing!” – because you think that’s a nice thing to say.
Let’s put ourselves in her Jimmy Choos for a moment. You’ve struggled for several months with disordered eating. You have a very poor self image and particularly low self esteem. Every day is a battle. You bump into an old friend, one you haven’t seen for a while. She says “Wow! You’ve lost so much weight, you look amazing!” You HEAR “You used to be a right fat cow! Now you’re dieting – keep that up!”
You now think “It’s working it’s working! Maybe I won’t even bother having an apple for lunch today, perhaps I will go without!”
You see? More harm than good.
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Consider that the friend who has lost weight may have done so as the result of a terrible illness, one that she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about – by mentioning and highlighting it you could be forcing her to talk about something which she finds difficult to talk about.
A simple rule of thumb, is don’t mention a person’s weight – ever. Not unless they do so first and invite you to voice your opinion.
Here are the top five compliments you can pay someone, without alluding to their appearance, weight or health – none of which, by the way, are any of your damned business!
- You’re awesome – the best people always are.
- You are such an inspiration to me. I wish I was more like you.
- I love your sense of humour. You’re so much fun to be around.
- You’re a brilliant friend, you’re so kind and caring.
- You’re so wise, you always give great advice.
And on the flip side – learn how to take a compliment! It can be hard to do at first, but just smile and say “thank you” – that’s all it takes – don’t try to brush it off or shy away from the fact that someone said something nice about you.
After all, you ARE awesome!