If You Compliment People at Work, Use This Rule

Photo: Photo_DDD, Shutterstock
Photo: Photo_DDD, Shutterstock

If you’re one of the people out there bemoaning the fact that you “can’t even compliment someone at work these days without them taking it the wrong way,” take note: Clever Twitter user Marissa Lingen has found a solution. She suggests using the word “snazzy” when remarking on your colleagues’ outfits — that is to say, the kind of word your great aunt would use, the kind of word that cannot be taken the wrong way. Here’s what she had to say.

When complimenting articles of clothing or outfits

Here is how Lingen addressed this issue on Twitter:

Would you like some examples? She provides those too:

“Snazzy shirt, work friendo!” “Hey, those are some snazzy earrings you’ve got on, neighbour!” See how you sound like someone’s great-aunt? perfect.

You don’t strictly have to use the word snazzy, but it is a good example of why Great-Aunt Lingo is a good choice: It’s cheerful, positive and inherently inoffensive.

And the insights don’t end there. Another Twitter user, Michael L. Davenport also chimed in with another possible way to compliment someone’s outfit:

I like complimenting matches, e.g., “Neat, your headband matches your earrings!”The reaction is usually either “Yeah! Thanks for noticing!” or “Haha it was an accident but it works, eh?”

  • compliments a CHOICE
  • works for any gender
  • usually makes the person feel good

According to Lingen, this is a subset of what she calls the “enthusiastic neutral,” which involves making a factual statement while indicating that you’re excited about it. She provides this example to illustrate its effectiveness:

“OMG your skirt has whales all over it!” Incontrovertibly true! (Or…a really weird thing to say if false.)

So, if you find yourself in a position where you absolutely feel as though you must say something about someone’s outfit, this is one way to do it.

When complimenting body parts or physical attributes

In short: don’t. If you notice that someone you work or interact with — and with whom you are not in a consensual romantic/sexual relationship — has nice eyes or forearms, just keep that little tidbit to yourself. And no, you can’t use “snazzy” and an article of clothing to get you out of it (i.e. “Those snazzy slacks really compliment your tush.”). As Lingen notes: “Inherent qualities, such as eyes and arse? Cannot be snazzy. Leave those ALONE.” Amen.

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