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Compliments from strangers

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#1 laridae

Posted 18 January 2020 - 10:22 AM

What are peoples thought on the topic of complimenting strangers?

There seems to be a movement for complimenting people you don't know on their shoes, hair or smile, on the basis that complimenting them will make you and them happier and therefore make the world a better place. I've seen it posted on FB and the comments tend to be along the lines of 'yes, I do that too!', and 'yes, I do that, sometimes I get abused or funny looks but is all worth it for that one person who gives you a big smile!'

Someone at my work had this happen a few days ago. A stranger commented on her shoes. Her perfectly ordinary, plain black flat shoes. She thought it was bizarre.

And I got to thinking. My DD1 gets compliments all the time. She's got quite unusual hair (red and curly) and we pretty much cannot go out without someone coming up to her and commenting on it. I've been telling her to just to smile and say thanks, but it really makes her uncomfortable. To the point that we usually braid or plait her hair to try and prevent comments on it.
And after they've finished profusely complimenting her hair they will see DD2, with her fairly ordinary wavy blonde hair, and make weak compliment to her too. Or they don't spot her hanging around in the background and she doesn't get anything said. Either way it gets pretty uncomfortable.
Due to this I feel that commenting on the appearance of people I don't know is probably not a good thing and it's not something I would do.

#2 Kaz83

Posted 18 January 2020 - 10:32 AM

Yes OP, exactly the same story here!! DD2 has red, curly hair - EVERY time we go out she gets some sort of comment about her hair. She is naturally shy anyway so usually doesnt say anything and I say some sort of awkward thanks. DD3 is a baby so she gets some comment about being cute and DD1 sort of hangs around in the background with her brown hair.
I remember commenting to my DH once that when DD1 was little I would always get asked her name. With DD2 its ALWAYS about her hair. I dont think Ive ever been asked her name.
I am pretty socially awkward anyway so I tend to keep my head down and not talk to anyone whilst in public, so complimenting random strangers is probably not something I would do.

#3 Cat12

Posted 18 January 2020 - 10:34 AM

I would hate to live in a place where even a casual compliment is cause for angst. Teach your daughter to smile and say ‘thanks’ and move on.

I sew some of my own clothes and LOVE it when people compliment me on my creations and will also comment if I see shoes or a bag I like. It’s nice to be nice.


Edited by Cat12, 18 January 2020 - 10:36 AM.

#4 laridae

Posted 18 January 2020 - 10:47 AM

 Cat12, on 18 January 2020 - 10:34 AM, said:

I would hate to live in a place where even a casual compliment is cause for angst. Teach your daughter to smile and say ‘thanks’ and move on.

Yes, that's what I am doing however it's not usually a 'casual compliment' like 'love your hair'. It's an enthusiastic outpouring of 'omg, your hair is so beautiful, it's amazing, I love the colour, and the curls. I just had to come up to you and tell you how wonderful your hair is'. It's pretty full on and it happens very often!
And then they see DD2. She gets an 'oh, you are beautiful too'.
DD1 hates the attention, she's pretty shy though we've been working on that.
Conversely, DD2 loves being the centre of attention, would talk to anyone and would probably love the compliments if they happened.

I totally get that you like compliments on stuff you have made. DD1 likes comments on stuff she's worked hard on too. However, her hair just grows that way, she's not done anything other than being born like that.

Edited by laridae, 18 January 2020 - 10:53 AM.

#5 Odd-1-Out

Posted 18 January 2020 - 10:48 AM

I would never of imagined complimenting a stranger would give them anxiety or other negative feelings. It makes me feel bad if I have done that to someone unintentionally.

It makes me 2nd guess everything though. If someone gives constructive critisism or disagrees with someone they "arent being supportive" or "butting in". But if someone gives a compliment they are wrong now as well.

I do think compliments should be genuine and not just for the sake of being nice though.

Edited by Odd-1-Out, 18 January 2020 - 10:50 AM.

#6 lizzzard

Posted 18 January 2020 - 11:12 AM

I do compliment strangers on their look, but rarely children - I sometimes compliment children (or their caregivers) on their behaviour though. Yesterday I told a little boy of about 12 that he was a lovely big brother for sharing with his little sister when she threw a wobbly about his meal looking more appealing than hers in a restaurant (her meal looked fine!). He gave me a massive smile. I am aware of the shyness thing though. DS would be horrified to have any attention from a stranger. So I keep my comments very short and quiet. I do think a compliment from a stranger is nice to recieve if done in a low key way.

#7 BadCat

Posted 18 January 2020 - 11:12 AM

I find random compliments weird.

I hate compliments that are appearance based. If you can't compliment someone on something worthwhile then don't bother.  There are obvious exceptions to this, but that would be mostly about friends and family, not strangers or casual acquaintances.

And I loathe the notion that we should run around throwing insincere compliments at random strangers to make the world a better place.  It's nonsensical to start with.  And worse, it gives men a way to validate their catcalling.

Keep your opinion of how someone looks to yourself unless they ask you.

Edited by BadCat, 18 January 2020 - 11:13 AM.

#8 lizzzard

Posted 18 January 2020 - 11:20 AM

BadCat I understand your perspective but you can usually tell when someone is the kind of person who puts a lot of effort into their appearance and that it’s  something they probably value. Whether or not you think appearance is something of value is less relevant. An un-asked compliment can make someone feel really good. That’s why I sometimes tell the person rather than just keeping my positive thoughts to myself.

#9 Bam1

Posted 18 January 2020 - 11:21 AM

 Cat12, on 18 January 2020 - 10:34 AM, said:

I would hate to live in a place where even a casual compliment is cause for angst. Teach your daughter to smile and say ‘thanks’ and move on.

I sew some of my own clothes and LOVE it when people compliment me on my creations and will also comment if I see shoes or a bag I like. It’s nice to be nice.


Complimenting on a skill you have (whether its sewing or styling) is different to complimenting on hair which the person was born with. Its nice to be nice but its also nice to consider that if you think the hair is worth a comment than so have a lot of other people and you don’t always have to make a comment, especially if doing so due to an FB post.

OP my kids have afros and they always get compliments too, it can be tiresome for them as well, especially when its interrupting a conversation or activity they are doing.  They always say thanks as in the end what can you do - the oerson complimenting often needs the validation and they don’t consider that maybe they shouldn’t use a child to get it.

#10 ~Jolly_F~

Posted 18 January 2020 - 11:21 AM


Edited by ~Jolly_F~, 18 January 2020 - 08:00 PM.

#11 Kallie88

Posted 18 January 2020 - 11:38 AM

I'm too shy myself to give compliments, I find recieving them (rare) awkward, but not horrible lol. When it comes to putting 'nice/good' into the world, I try to be kind in my actions not my words. If someone needs help I try to help them, if I can offer a little assistance I do my best to do so. Those little acts of kindness are what I tend to remember, so I hope they stick with those I help too.

I would probably try to encourage your dds not to take it too much to heart, people can do things that make us uncomfortable with the best of intentions. Perhaps dd1 could start saying 'thanks, I get that a lot'. Might remind some people that she lives with it everyday. Or if dd2 is more of a chatterbox maybe she could intercede and 'save' her sister "yeah, everybody says that, it comes from x side of the family' etc. Might scare them away haha
I never got anything like it, but my brother had curly blonde hair and was always stopped as a kid and told 'what a beautiful girl' he was 😂 I'm pretty sure his solution was to cut his hair short, so might not be the best advice here

#12 LadyGreyTea

Posted 18 January 2020 - 11:44 AM

I wonder if cultural differences come into this, cause I know in Asian culture people tend to point out and compliment on children whether it be based on their personality or appearance.
Asian parents seem to like it it when strangers or acquaintances compliment their children.

#13 Not Escapin Xmas

Posted 18 January 2020 - 11:50 AM

I compliment people on fabulous shoes or an usual broach. More clothes as art rather than ‘lucky you to be born with such fabulous genes’.

#14 seayork2002

Posted 18 January 2020 - 12:36 PM

I was complimented last week as an in to them speaking (recruiting?) me to their religion.

I compliment if i mean it i don't have the energy for faking it

#15 coolbreeze

Posted 18 January 2020 - 12:46 PM

View PostNot Escapin Xmas, on 18 January 2020 - 11:50 AM, said:

I compliment people on fabulous shoes or an usual broach. More clothes as art rather than ‘lucky you to be born with such fabulous genes’.

sometimes I complement adults on their beautiful unusual broach or fabulous  dress style. Clothes as art or creativity.People seem to like that as I can tell their choice of clothes is a creative expression or outlet.
I wouldn't compliment people on their hair colour or children's appearance in general or  good manners at the table.
My mum does but shes just being a nice and making connections.

#16 Chee72

Posted 18 January 2020 - 12:48 PM

My DD10 has been receiving compliments/attention since she was a baby. She is mixed race, very tall, slim, long auburn wavy hair and fair complexion. She used to smile and say thanks. However, I’ve noticed the last six months, she would not say anything when complimented, to the point where someone said she was rude. She is starting to have anxiety about her appearance where now she deliberately wears very loose clothes and a hat and walks with her head down.

#17 lizzzard

Posted 18 January 2020 - 12:51 PM

Jolly I'm sorry things are tough for you. Believe me, having a preteen with anxiety and selective mutism, public meltdowns are familiar territory for us too....

However, the bigger picture is that if we (as a society) do things like not saying nice things to each other for fear of a bad reaction, then 90% of people miss out on a confidence-boosting element in their day for the sake of 10% of people who might react badly to it. If our situation is anything to go by,the next trigger for a meltdown is only moments away anyway :(

#18 Ellie bean

Posted 18 January 2020 - 01:10 PM

View PostNot Escapin Xmas, on 18 January 2020 - 11:50 AM, said:

I compliment people on fabulous shoes or an usual broach. More clothes as art rather than ‘lucky you to be born with such fabulous genes’.
I do that too, if I’m in a lift with someone I might say “I love your jacket” or “what a great handbag” if it’s unusual etc. I wouldn’t stop someone in the street to say it, only if it’s a natural scenario.
I get compliments from strangers on my shoes sometimes (I wear some out there shoes occasionally), I am pleased to be complimented
I would never comment on a strangers appearance as such, only their accessories!

I do talk to children but only if they are smiling at you and initiate the encounter.

Strangers tend to talk to my dd quite a bit as she is absolutely stunning (doesn’t get it from me lol)- I wait with bated breath as depending on her mood, she might be delightful and have a lovely little chat and make an old lady’s day, or it might be like recently when she didn’t want help on the climbing frame so I’m standing well back and a stranger tried to help her and she screamed “I DONT NEED YOUR HEEEELP I CAN DO IT MYSELF!” Poor person was shell shocked and probably won’t try to help a child for a looong time (I said to them “that was kind of you thanks for offering “ which hopefully softened the blow, I do talk to her about being polite but I can’t guarantee she will be)

#19 Jane Jetson

Posted 18 January 2020 - 01:10 PM

I don't like the idea of a movement towards it as this seems artificial and probably excusing of bad male behaviour - but with compliments I think the giver just needs to consider that it does matter to recipients how it's said, what is being complimented and who it's coming from.

I don't tend to give them much unless I'm already interacting with someone. So if the sales assistant I'm chatting with has done something awesome with their nails, or the toddler at the next table the other week at the airport cafe who kept offering me his hot chips - I politely declined the chips but told him he had lovely sharing manners. That sort of thing. Complimenting on stuff that you're born with (like gorgeous red curly hair on a kid) is weird because it's not like you did anything to get it, and it's not like it reflects your taste or anything.

It's also bloody rude to compliment one sibling and not the other so maybe it's best to keep your mouth shut (thanks friends of my Mum in the 70s, yes my sister was gorgeous and yes it was a shame I had to wear those ugly glasses! Rude bloody people).

I get a few on things like my shoes, lipstick or the way I've styled my hair which I quite like, as this reflects my taste. Also now that I'm fat and fortysomething these compliments only come from other women, and so I know there's not going to be any creepy male bullsh*t involved. Lots of men do seem to be very invested in giving weird unsavoury "compliments" and then getting the sh*ts when women aren't delighted.

Edited by Jane Jinglebells, 18 January 2020 - 02:58 PM.

#20 born.a.girl

Posted 18 January 2020 - 01:14 PM

My daughter also has very, very auburn, thick, curly hair, which attracted comments all the time.

They never went overboard though, like above.

Once she was articulate enough she said one day 'everyone says that' so we had to have a bit of a chat about a smile and 'thanks'.

I occasionally compliment someone, but might be something such as 'that colour looks amazing on you', which is something most of us can carry off.

#21 Ellie bean

Posted 18 January 2020 - 01:16 PM

^^yeah Jane I agree one benefit of being fat and old is no more compliments from strange men, I did not enjoy that

#22 Dadto2

Posted 18 January 2020 - 01:42 PM


Edited by Dadto2, 18 January 2020 - 01:51 PM.

#23 spr_maiden

Posted 18 January 2020 - 01:51 PM

^^except for the ones who say "I love all women" *wink wink*
Frickin' vomited a little in my mouth at that one.

I'm similar to you Jane. Compliments in context. Though,  I have been known to give one to a stranger on occasion. E.g. if a woman's tag is hanging out,  I'll tell her,  does she wants
me to tuck it in or she's got it, I probably noticed the tag because she was wearing a great colour or her haircut looked good,  if so I might let her know.
The giving random compliments as a rule sounds contrived.

Ed arrow for sense

Edited by spr_maiden, 18 January 2020 - 01:52 PM.

#24 10YearsLater

Posted 18 January 2020 - 02:05 PM

I literally read your Facebook comments moments ago OP then open up this thread (both comments - plain, black shoes and daughter with red, curly hair).

#25 MooGuru

Posted 18 January 2020 - 02:12 PM

Yeah my general rules for compliments are:
- some kind of interaction is not unexpected i.e. someone serving you in a shop or in a lift/long queue where you might smile and nod or say hello etc.  
- have to mean it genuinely.
- never on appearance but about a thing like shoes/handbag/jewellery/clothes.
- if they don't look comfortable, stop.
9/10 times the person looks thrilled and I end up in a brief conversation about markets or favourite shops etc. 1/10 times I get a thanks and smile.

I think compliments are great but I'd hate to see people doing it insincerely to fulfill some kind of quota.

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