The nature of compliments


Makes you happy, right?

Why do we give compliments? Why do we enjoy receiving compliments? To what degree should we let compliments shape the way we dress?

I have given this some thought lately. We thrive on compliments. One compliment from a stranger (or someone I know, for that matter) can make my day. One compliment can put a smile on my face and make me straighten up and walk a little taller (which is useful, since I am quite short).

And quite often I hear clients say something like: «I know this colour is wrong on me, but I have gotten SO many compliments when I have worn this scarf! How can that be?»

Why indeed.

Let us examine why we give compliments. I am willing to wager that more often than not, it has less to do with the actual outfit/lipstick/scarf/shoes we compliment, but more about the relationship we seek to nurture.


We give compliments because: 1. We want to be friendly. 2. Giving a compliment is an easy way to start a conversation. 3. We want to let the other person know that we see her/him. 4. We like what the other person is wearing. 5. We would want to wear what the other person is wearing.

Here’s a thought: It’s always about the person who is giving the compliment. Even when the compliment is about something the other person is wearing, it is delivered from the totally personal viewpoint of the person giving the compliment.


Compliments and critisism


A line from the famous poem If- by Rudyard Kipling goes like this:


«If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same; «


For the purpose of this blog post I might rewrite this to say: ”If you can meet with compliments and criticism and treat those two impostors just the same”. Compliments and criticism are both useful, if handled with caution.


Here is a link to the complete poem, if you would like to read it.


The solution to dealing with criticism is to think about why it is offered: Same as with compliments, it’s always about them, never about you. They are having a bad day, and needed to step on someone else in order to not feel so lonely in their own misery. They are jealous and want to put you in your place (which is invariably below them).


Norwegian joke: A woman gives her husband two ties for Christmas. On Christmas morning, he is proudly wearing one of the new ties, and the wife says: «Huh. So you didn’t like the other one I gave you, eh?»


They think that being negative sounds way more intelligent than being positive. Criticism is rarely given face to face, but sadly is very common on social media, where internet trolls regularly come out from under their rcks and lash out left, right, and center. Just remember, I repeat: it’s never about you, it’s always about them. I am not saying this as an excuse, it is more an explanation.


I am not saying that we should stop enjoying compliments, and I am not saying that we should stop giving compliments. I still think it is the greatest way of letting the other person know that I see her and wish her well. When someone compliments you, take the compliment for what it is, a positive, friendly communication between people. It is really nice that what we wear or how we look sparks joy in other peoples hearts, and that these people are kind enough to let us know.

It is if we view compliments as directions on how to dress, that we run into trouble.

How we dress or wear our makeup is a very personal matter. Your style is your style, it is your way of expressing your authentic personality and accentuating the colours, lines and proportions of your body. When someone is complementing your looks, it may very well be because they sense that you have accomplished this, and is validating and confirming your style choice. Fine. Super. Good for them. On the other hand, the compliment can be given for any number of other reasons (see above). So enjoy the compliment, receive it gracefully, appreciate the positive human interaction, which is a most precious commodity. But do not let it be your style or colour guide.

Your style is truly your own, and when you have arrived at your colours and are in the process of evolving your authentic style, either on your own or with the help of a trusted professional, the journey is yours. Trust it. And enjoy the compliments, because you will be showered with them. And by all means, complement other people. It brightens our day. Enjoy it as a wonderful, supportive way of communicating with other people.