As someone who's entering a time of life that involves weddings, reunions, and generally running into people I haven't seen in awhile, I find myself being shocked by how much people have changed over the years. A lot of times, people will have dropped a bunch of weight, or have turned into a kind and articulate human being, or have obviously stopped doing so many drugs. It's important, when complimenting people on positive life changes, to let them know how well you think they're doing without letting them know what a wacko you thought they were before. Here are some tips for giving out compliments that don't make you look like a dog-head, from someone who's recently received a bunch of left-handed compliments:
1.) Stay positive. "You're a lot less morbidly obese than you were before!" doesn't quite have the ring of "You look great! What's your secret?" Framing your compliments in a positive light will make the person feel like you're celebrating the change with them, rather than kicking the old self in the gut.
2.) Avoid comparisons. "You look so beautiful, I hardly recognized you!" is not a compliment. You've basically said "Wow, you were REALLY horrid before, but now you're okay I guess!" The important thing is to emphasize how well you think the person is doing, not to emphasize how judgy mcjudgerson you have been about them previously.
3.) Have some tact, and don't be nosy. "You look so awake! Did you stop smoking weed?" is probably not the best way to ask someone about handling an addictive disease. Nor is "You've lost A LOT of weight, haven't you?" a good way to ask about someone's lifestyle changes. Saying something generic like "You look really great! How've you been?" or "It looks like you're doing well! How are things going?" gives the person a chance to talk up their successes if they like, or say less if they don't think it's any of your business.
4.) Less is more. The more words you say to a person about how different they are, the more likely you are to end up with your foot in your mouth. Give the compliment, and then move on to the weather, or people you knew in common, or the person's 18 children.
What's the weirdest compliment you've ever received? Do you have more tips for interacting with people you haven't seen in awhile? Leave a comment below!
-June the Homemaker