A few days ago I was in an open discussion with colleagues. Among the topics, we talked about the shift in the work culture due to a rise in awareness of workplace abuse and the empowerment of women to step forward to report they have been attacked or abused by a co-worker. Men and women of different age ranges and ethnicities were in the group discussion with me, and the men spoke up about their angst with a damned if you do and damned if you don’t type of scenario. If they make a sincere compliment to a female or male co-worker on their looks or personality, they might get reported to HR for inappropriate behavior. However, being “all business all the time” and never having friendly conversations with co-workers will mark you as cold, not a team player or difficult to work with collaboratively. If a woman tells a male or female colleague they look handsome or beautiful it could be seen as flirting. The misinterpretation of a gracious compliment can get way out of hand.
Since I live in Los Angeles which has a reputation for placing stereotypical emphasis on outward, physical beauty due to Hollywood and Beverly Hills types, I was asked if my view of what makes a person beautiful is by those standards. Trying not to take that as an insult, I replied truthfully that I do see many attractive people every day because I live in Los Angeles, but I don’t aim my compliments to a person based on a “media” standard. For example, I compliment a lovely elderly lady at church every Sunday because she dresses stylishly and her hair is always done perfectly. She carries herself with confidence and has a delightful personality. I enjoy telling her she looks beautiful today because she gives me a big smile and a thank you. It seems to brighten her day. If I see a man who looks sharp, I will say so if I have an appropriate chance to give the compliment. It doesn’t matter to me if the man is young or older, slim or not, or George Clooney. Although, I would not hesitate to give Mr. Clooney a compliment if I had the chance.
I’ve written a previous article titled When They Go Low, Gentlemen go High calling for a return of the manners that went with being a gentleman or lady in civilized society. I’m not trying to challenge Miss Manners, who is an authority on etiquette, but I would like to offer some advice to people who want to express their compliments to co-workers or a stranger in a public place and not receive negativity or anything other than a thank you for just being nice. If your place of business has strict code of conduct rules, you will have to decide if any of these suggestions will work in your environment.
“You look beautiful (handsome) today.” You can tell someone you find them attractive but remember to tell them while looking at their eyes and of course say it in a non-creepy way – don’t over emphasize or accent certain words, go into deep details of what physical aspect makes them attractive to you or wink at them.
“Your earrings are beautiful” “I like your shoes.” “I like that shade of blue you’re wearing.” Try complimenting a particular aspect of the person’s style. The shoe compliment is for men too. If you extend your sincere compliments to many people you work with and do it often, your co-workers will think of you as a kind person and will probably treat you with the same kindness. The key is not to go overboard or go into too much detail. Keep it short and sincere.
“I’m impressed with how you handled that situation.” “You made my day by being extra helpful.” “Your work is always excellent.” Compliment a person on their excellence if you work in a very strict business environment or in a situation where it’s not appropriate to express your feelings on a person’s attractiveness. You should always let others know when you appreciate their exceptional work or service.
Hopefully, these suggestions will encourage you to compliment others often and without fear. The side effects of people saying positive things to one another are joy, motivation and inspiration, and more positivity. Let’s spread that joy fearlessly, person-to-person, throughout the world.
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