7 Compliment Fails or The Art of True Appreciation

7 Compliment Fails or The Art of True Appreciation

The art of making a compliment means walking a fine line between desired effect and deep fail. We looked into seven ways of blundering a compliment – and how to avoid it.  

Whether you’re just stating the obvious or trying to flatter the senses of your counterpart, you’re always at risk of messing it up. Too flirty, too creepy, too much out there. You better be aware of the hazards of courtship before generating the opposite effect.

1. The flirtatious fail

You meet the person you got to know through some kind of app in real life. Cupid’s arrow hits you, and you’re instantly love-struck. Now you feel like telling your date something nice. Before you steam ahead and give voice to that powerful overflow of feelings, here’s a quick checklist for you: are you sure the person will welcome the compliment? Is a get-to-know-each-other chat the right time and right place for such a compliment? Will you sound believable after having known the person for less than a day? The likelihood of bungling it should probably put you off doing it. Word of advice – save it for later.

2. The ambiguous fail

Most people have barked up the wrong tree on occasion. The moment you say it is the moment you know you shouldn’t have done it. Or maybe the reaction of your counterpart has made it clear when you said, “Looking good! You’ve lost a lot of weight, right?” In this case, you basically said that the person was overweight before, but looks much better now that with their weight dropped. Similar compliment fails go with hair, different style of clothing, and the like. Unfortunately, it will make them feel worse than before, and maybe even left wondering how bad they must have looked for years. What is worse, they may suspect you to trade a hidden blow. So just don’t!

3. The hopeless fail

This is one of the worst occasions for compliments. You want to make a compliment only to save a situation, so you come up with something that will make you sound insincere. Before you make such a compliment, ask yourself why you want to do it. If you just want to be liked by somebody or just say something that you don’t really mean, you’d better bite your lip. If you want to make friends with people, or you’re desperate to improve a relationship, then honesty is the best policy.

4. The common fail

Similar to the first point made here (the flirtatious fail), you’d be well advised to steer clear from personal compliments. For whatever reason you want to compliment someone on their eyes, physique, hair, or style of clothing – please think twice. You don’t want to sound like you’re coming on to the person, and you don’t want to get the notion across that you’re reducing the person to their “nice and blonde hair” or “wow, is that a sixpack?” Personal compliments are best reserved for people you know well, and of whom you can be sure to take it the right way.  

5. The extraordinary fail

If somebody has ever given you a compliment that left you flabbergasted – then you know what the point is here. “Your father must be a thief, because he stole the most beautiful stars in the sky and planted them in your eyes.” Imagine that! You couldn’t print it on a T-shirt to make it any truer. The word of wisdom here is that even with your emotions running high and you feeling very poetic, carefully consider the occasion.   

6. The strings-attached fail

Some people just say things, as they’re secretly hoping to get something back for it. You too? The truth is that the moment somebody understands why you’re saying what you didn’t really mean, it will put you in a very bad light. You can easily try to make someone feel good without making up fake compliments, and this is exactly what will work in your favor. So – before you learn it the hard way – being frank and open with people will get you where you want by a long way. Customize this T-shirt with your best compliment fails.

7. The cringeworthy heebie-jeebies disaster

We’ve saved this for last, as it’s the one that makes you look like a bit of a psycho – and surely you wouldn’t like that! Ever watched The Office? Then you may remember one or two occasions where a compliment was paid to a stranger that had you cringe with discomfort. The worst ones are completely misplaced flirtatious comments. Like in The Office, when the middle-aged guy compliments the new intern on her cleavage. Or he tries to save a situation by complimenting a co-worker on his ethnicity. Creepy!

Here’s one last piece of advice. We all like a compliment when it fits an occasion. Let’s say you really like somebody, and you think you’d make that particular person feel better for knowing it. Tell a mutual friend what you think, and you can be sure that it will be passed on to that person. And then it won’t sound creepy or out of place, but probably more like “do you know what Jason told me the other day? He’s admires your fashion-consciousness and stylistic assurance.” Now, how does that sound? 

  1. So …. we can’t compliment people either … I give up

    1. In Bob Dylan’s words, “The Times They Are A Changing” 🙂

      Not that I’ve written the Generation Z etiquette guide, but I’d say it’s all about being on familiar terms. I still compliment my ex on her hair 🙂

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