Let’s talk about the art of how to give a compliment. I say art because giving a meaningful compliment truly is an art form. How we express admiration, respect, or affection can have a profound impact, not just on the receiver but on our well-being. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love receiving a genuine compliment?

When you dress differently from the majority of society, you get a lot of comments about what you wear when out and about. I’ll be honest: some people need to learn how to give a compliment. Take the gentleman who told me, “That dress is nice, but I could do without those stupid dinosaur earrings.” My response? Sir, no one is asking you. Enter the age-old adage: if you can’t say anything nice… There are always others who do the basic compliment my ootd (outfit of the day), a “I love your look” or “I like those shoes.”  My response? Thank you so much.

However, occasionally, I receive a compliment that MAKES MY DAY. “You look so pretty.” Not the dress looks pretty, or those shoes are pretty, but I, myself, look pretty. Receiving compliments about how I look in the look vs. about the look got me thinking about how to give a compliment so it is meaningful to the receiver.

The Look vs. The Person Behind It

Often, I find myself admiring an outfit, a hairstyle, or even a new pair of shoes and then saying: “That dress is gorgeous!” or “Love the hair color!” We all know the standard IG comment, “I love this look!” While these are lovely sentiments, they focus on external, often transient aspects. They touch on the surface. And yes, while we do appreciate them, these compliments sometimes miss the essence of the person wearing them. Note: There is nothing wrong with saying these things, but your words can be SO much more!

Now imagine this: complimenting with depth and intention. “That dress looks gorgeous on you.” or “Your new hair color really brings out the spark in your eyes.” Notice the difference? The former focuses on the item or look, the latter on the person wearing it, appreciating the unique way in which they bring life to that particular look. Let’s take a look at what happens when we change the way we complement those about us:

The Psychology of Complimenting

What changes when you compliment the individual vs what’s on their bodies? Let’s look at the psychology of a compliment and how it can change our daily interactions:

1. Depth of Connection: Complimenting the person and not just their appearance establishes a deeper connection. You’re not just noticing an external thing they have chosen to put on that day. Instead, you’re acknowledging the individuality of the person wearing it. You are not just seeing the fantastic tiered taffeta skirt but acknowledging the bold mind behind the styling.

2. Self-esteem Booster: Recognizing the individual boosts their self-esteem more profoundly! Rewording your compliment makes it not just about a fleeting trend or a changeable style; it’s about them as unique creative beings.

3. Endorphin Release: Studies have shown that giving (yes, giving!) a genuine compliment can increase endorphin levels, our body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Going deeper with your compliment is a dopamine win-win for you and the receiver! And who doesn’t need more dopamine?!

How to Update Your Compliment Giving

1. Be Authentic: Only compliment when you truly mean it! People can tell when your words are disingenuous, and NO one has time for that nonsense. FULL STOP.

2. Be Specific: Instead of saying, “I like your dress,” say something more specific, like, “YOU look amazing in that dress!” Changing your focus shows you’ve taken a moment to truly observe and appreciate them. Switch “I like your next haircut” for “Your new haircut looks amazing on YOU.”

3. Compliment Their Qualities: Let’s go beyond style and fashion for a hot sec. Don’t forget to compliment the inherent qualities of those around you! “Your enthusiasm is infectious,” or “Your insights during the meeting were really valuable.” Recognizing someone’s personality traits fosters deeper connections and helps them to feel truly seen. And who doesn’t want to feel SEEN in this social media-heavy post-Covid world?

I want to note that no one has EVER had their day ruined by a kind compliment. If you’ve been admiring how an individual has been rocking a red lip in line at the coffee shop- let them know! If you cannot stop looking at how the person next to you is rocking a totally unique dress- do a shoulder tap and say something! But take a moment next time you’re about to compliment someone. Look beyond the surface! Recognize the beauty in the person and not just what they’re wearing. Celebrate their uniqueness and think of how to give a compliment that honors it. Because, in the end, that’s really matters.

Have you received a compliment that has stuck with you, for better or worse? I would love to hear all about it! Drop a comment below or DM me on socials! 

cursive signature for kait elizabeth


Want to pin this post? This is the image!