Monday, March 22, 2010

Don't Be Afraid To Compliment A Stranger

(Image of Purdue's Compliment Guys.)

A couple of weeks ago, I went into Starbucks after spending the morning in court (for work) before going to the office. Court had been frustrating, it was cold and windy outside, and I was feeling especially blah. However, I was wearing my very awesome Proenza Schouler for Target coat from a couple of years ago, which almost always lifts my spirits a little bit, and had on an equally fun H&M scarf. When the barista asked me my name to put on my coffee, he hollered it to his coworkers, then turned to me and said, "Roxy! You look fantastic! That coat and the scarf look great with your coloring, and especially your hair." As windblown and chilled as I was, and as little as I was looking forward to the next eight hours, his comment - genuine and not a come-on - absolutely made my day.

It can sometimes be difficult to know how to take a compliment. They can feel backhanded or like they come with an ulterior motive. You can feel like you've fished for it or like it's rooted in guilt. But when it comes from a stranger? It almost always is void of all that history or subtext, and is just a truly genuine piece of positive feedback.

Yes, there are compliments from strangers that are less welcome. If you're hollering out your car window at me, I'm more likely to throw a rude gesture your way than I am to smile and say thanks. (Sidebar: Has that EVER gotten anyone a date? Why are guys still attempting that "Hey Baby Hey Baby!" nonsense? "Nice tits," while true, is not exactly tops on our list of things to hear from some random dude.) And if I hear "Smile! You're so pretty!" one more time, I might just lose it once and for all.

But if someone says they love my jeans? I'll happily have a five minute conversation about my favorite brand (Joe's), my favorite place to find them (eBay or various consignment shops in town), and walk away feeling miles better. Brownie had a similar experience recently, when she was having a great hair day and had that validated by someone she had never met. And Daisy has one of my favorite stories, involving a cool t-shirt, Trader Joe's, and a guy saying, "Oh, stay right there! I want to show my wife your shirt! It's great!"

While we've explained in plain terms how not to be an asshole in public, we also think it's important to be actively nice to people. So many of us are wandering around in our own little worlds, plugged into our iPods and smartphones, and I'm just as guilty of that as anyone. But that doesn't mean its good. Sure, it keeps you from having to have conversations with the crazy person next to you on the bus, but it can also keep you from connecting. And it keeps other people from sharing how cute they think your shoes are or lending you their extra umbrella on a rainy day or just generally making you feel good. And while it can be scary to talk to strangers, it can also mean more to them than you realize. So the next time you see someone with great earrings or the perfect haircut or just a generally sunny and delightful disposition, but you're hesitant to share your thoughts with them? Just stop, think about how nice it is when someone says something nice to you, and don't be afraid to compliment a stranger.


  1. People that do this are usually douchey men who are purposely fishing for a date.

    I usually reply with my finger.