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Compliment etiquette

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This was sparked by something I read in another discussion, in which an eHellion stated that it is poor etiquette to comment on a person's appearance.

That makes sense to me, honestly, but what I was wondering is this: are there ways to politely compliment someone on their appearance?  I was always taught that it's acceptable to say something along the lines of, "oh, what a lovely brooch!  It really brings out your eyes" or some such.  I'd be very interested to hear y'all's take on the subject.

Many thanks!

I think your compliment is acceptable and I would be thrilled to receive such a compliment.  I think people get in trouble when they compliment others on sensitive topics such as weight loss or if their compliment is creepy.  For example, a woman might not be flattered to be told by a strange man that she has a "great body" because she might perceive him as a threat. 

Of course, there are also people who are just drama llamas and are going to twist any compliment to give them something to be offended about. So the etiquette of that is not bothering to compliment them again.

(I too would be fine with your example, but I'm notoriously hard to offend by conventional means.)

I think part of the problem is when it's really a "backhanded compliment", where there are other implications to what they're saying.   Or when the comment indicates surprise. 

"On some people that outfit wouldn't work, but on you it looks great"

"Wow, that top looks great on you!"   can sometimes imply that the speaker wouldn't expect anything to ever look great on you.

"You look great, have you lost weight?"   always makes me think "Lol, did they think I needed to lose weight?"

But of course, it's always a matter of perception.   But I think it's safe to say that commenting on somebody's personal appearance is generally a no-no.  Compliment the person, compliment items they wearing etc, but in most cases it's not appropriate to comment on their general physical appearance.    (There are exceptions to that - generally saying "You look absolutely fabulous!" is ok by me!)    ;)

But straightforward compliments are ok, IMHO:

"That top you're wearing is lovely, the colour looks great on you"
"I really like that necklace, it's stunning"



There's nothing wrong with compliments, as long as they are appropriate. Comments on personal appearance are ones that can easily be gotten wrong.

"Nice [female body part]" is not appropriate in most circumstances.

"You look pretty today" could be appropriate or not, depending on who you are giving it to and where; at work, for example, it could be problematic.

"I like your brooch" is fine - it's not too intimate.


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