I was chatting with my Aunt C last weekend & somehow came to be talking about commenting on appearances. She finds it extremely rude when people comment not only on her weight, but on anything to do with her personal appearance whether it be complimentary or otherwise. She used an example of a friend who looks her up & down, when ever she sees her, regardless of whether she is alone or with someone & makes comment. The last time this lady commented on C's shoes - "I haven't seen those shoes before, where did you get them". A bit blunt & not really complimentary on this occasion; C says she has made complimentary comment in the past.
I got to thinking & went back to C & mentioned that some people are bought up to believe that it is polite to compliment people on their personal appearance; I was certainly encouraged to make kind & positive comments (in fact to look for something positive to say every time) & that if I didn't have something nice to say to not say it at all.
C lost a lot of weight when she retired & I remember commenting to her that she looked great & bought this up. C's philosophy is that it doesn't matter what you look like, what weight you are, how your hair is done, whether you are well or unwell - you are friends &/or interact with people with no relevance to those things. C said her Mum bought her up that way & perhaps it was a little old fashioned. I'd imagine she feels these things are all as irrelevant as your skin colour as to any positive or negative interaction she may have with you.
Her husband T, then commented that in some cultures it was probably insulting if you didn't comment on someones physical appearance. I did read somewhere too that in a particular culture if you compliment someone on a possession, they are obligated to give it to you!
It's really got me thinking though:
Validation/approval V Disapproval
Genuine care & interest V shallow & disinterested/disrespectful
I guess everyone(?) makes shallow comments. You know the kind, where you meet someone & comment on a piece of jewellery or the shirt they are wearing to make conversation. Do blokes do this too or is it more us chicks???
In the work place managers often use validation as a tool in attempt get the best out of their employees (which reminds me, another of C' pet hates is asking people what they do for a living/job as again this holds no relevance as to who you are as person).
Personally I guess it really depends on the genuineness of your delivery of a compliment as to whether it is appropriate or not. I would never hesitate to compliment any of my friends on what they are wearing or if they are looking good or fit or lost weight. If they've gone to the trouble to lose weight or be well groomed or dressed & look good, surely a compliment is not disrespectful or out of order. I don’t think showing admiration & respect by verbalising it as a compliment is a bad thing either.
I do understand where C is coming from though. I think the lesson here is to think before speaking??? Consider your motivation for commenting; & the effect of what you are proposing to say will have on the person you are interacting with.
What do you recon?