Q. Karen, I have lost a lot of weight and am often complimented on how great I look since I've lost the weight. However, I know people mean well, but when they add "you look great since you lost all of the weight" suggests that I didn't look great before ( and maybe I didn't), but it seems more like a back handed compliment when people add the last half of the compliment. How do you suggest people offer a compliment?A. Any time someone pays someone else a compliment it's like receiving a gift and should be acknowledged with a sincere "thank you." But when offering a compliment you want to be careful not to negate the first part of the compliment with the last half.
Saying "you look great since you lost all of the weight," does suggest you didn't look good before, even if people don't intend that.
Here are some ways to offer a compliment without making it sound back-handed:Instead of saying you look great since you lost all of your weight, just say, "you look great."
The same can be said when complimenting someone in a way that refers to their age. Instead of saying, "you look good for your age," just say, "you look good."
Don't say, "you are so attractive, I don't understand why you're not married." That suggests that you must be flawed if you can't get someone to marry you. Say, "you are very attractive."
Or, "you played that sport well, for a girl." Just say, "you played well."
Also, avoid using the word "but" when offering a compliment. For instance, "I like your blouse, but I think it would look better in another color. Adding the "but" again, negates the intended compliment. If you want to add to the compliment use the word "and" instead..."I like your blouse in that color and it would look great in blue too."
Keep to the basics when complimenting someone. Don't add those qualifiers. A compliment should make someone feel better not worse or wondering if the compliment had some hidden message in it.
Karen Hickman is a local certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.