Honey, does this dress make me look fat?

Posted: March 19, 2015 in Family, Friends, Miscellaneous
Tags: , , , ,

There’s more to giving a compliment than you might think. Consider this “compliment” given by a girl with whom I went to high school. Pretend I’d just gotten a haircut. Her response upon viewing the result would be along the lines of, “You look SO much better.”   Perhaps it was just my high school lack of confidence, but that never really seemed to bode well for the way she thought I used to look or was she simply saying that the way I looked before was so terrible that anything, even this unflattering look, was preferable? Not my idea of a compliment.

One word that should never appear in a compliment is “but” or what we like to call “a but monkey.” An example of this might be, “You look great, honey, but don’t you think that dress is a little short/long/loose/tight/young?” Stop after “honey” and you’re good. Tack on a but monkey and the ice isn’t only thin, it’s giving way as you speak, plunging you into waters that can cause death in seconds.

The only but monkey I can think of that works in a compliment would be something similar to this: “I never thought anyone could look good in something of that shade of puce, but it looks amazing on you.” Tread carefully even here. But monkeys tend to close the ears of the person receiving the compliment to anything other than the phrase that comes after the “but.”

Probably the trickiest situation is when your spouse or a close friend asks you something along the lines of “How do you think this dress/these pants look on me?” You think they look terrible. Or what if your wife or female friend asks the dreaded question: “Does this make me look fat?”   Should you lie and say the outfit looks great or she doesn’t look fat? Should you tell the unvarnished truth and risk anger or worse?

I’m sure opinions vary. I think I’d (hopefully) say something along the lines of: “I think you have other outfits that look better.” If you can find something good to say about some aspect of the outfit, say it first. “That color looks great on you, but I think this dress doesn’t show off your great shape/arms/legs as much as  (some other outfit.)

Even though it’s not always easy to give a good compliment, everyone likes to get one. Focus on finding something good or positive about a person and it will be easy to compliment them. A compliment doesn’t make you less, it helps you make them more. Just be sincere and both of you will feel good.

What do you think?  Have you ever gotten into trouble when trying to give a sincere compliment or do you have any great tips to share?  Now’s the time!  I’d love to hear what you think.  Maybe you can save us all from giving the wrong sort of comment rather than the right type of compliment.

  1. There is an art to providing constructive criticism in a positive way. Multitudes of courses and books testify to that. Giving compliments should be much easier, but sometimes our mouths get in the way.

    • That’s true. If someone asks for an honest opinion, they don’t always want one, which is why it’s difficult to do. Thanks for weighing in (so to speak.) 🙂


  2. MiaMusings says:

    Compliments and honesty do not go well together in most cases! Try as hard as i might, I never seem to get it right, especially if someone expects me to be candid.

  3. Ah yes, the But Monkey. The dependent clause that entirely invalidates the opening statement. “Yes, but mangoes taste like ass.” We don’t have a phrase that says “I have heard you,” so we have fake agreement. It’s like the way Southern people will announce “Bless her heart” before laying in the most outrageous slander. “Bless her heart, she always was a poxed whore.”

  4. My dad should read this post… he IS the but(t) monkey …after many moons with my mom he only learnt to “avoid” wallet-trouble. when my mom asks if a dress or a pant would look good on her, he always says: it looks great, BUT it makes you look fat. ( if he sees to much numbers on the price tag :o)

  5. It is always a fine line to tread. I have never heard of but as a but monkey but it makes perfect sense. My ex never even bothered with the but monkey, just went straight into criticism. After 8 years it is hard to accept any compliments.

  6. 2e0mca says:

    This is definitely ‘Know your Partner’ territory! My Good Lady and I tend to be quite blunt with each other when something doesn’t quite work in our opinion but I don’t doubt that in other partnerships such an approach would lead to a great deal of discord. My Wife didn’t like my new glasses last time – just been to the Optometrists and I hope she likes the frames I chose this time! But Heyy! – if she doesn’t, why does it matter, I’m the one wearing them 😉

  7. Helen C says:

    Janet, I like your way of handling the situation (5th paragraph.) I can’t come up with a better way. Thanks for a wonderful post.

  8. I was teaching a class of high school emotional needs boys and we were talking about girls and dating or something similar. I had a good rapport with them, so I said to them “Here is my advice on my over 30 years of dating and marriage: There is only one answer – ONLY ONE – to the question ‘Does this dress make me look fat?’ That is: ‘Dear, you look wonderful in anything!’ Then STOP! nothing more.”

    • Exactly, Scott. And to you, she does look wonderful. Wise man.


      • Well, that’s what it would be like. In return, she should treat me well, so that a relationship works. Mine were always kinda a one-way street. As I take responsibility for that problem, I notice it getting better. Now, to find someone! lol

  9. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Here is my one-size-fitsall escape response: Look, an Angel!!!

  10. Knowing the audience is critical when someone asks…
    Delicate responses may be as difficult for some as accepting a compliment is for others?

    • I think you’re exactly right. What I should have added is that if you don’t really want an honest response, you probably shouldn’t ask the question if there’s any chance the answer might be what you don’t want to hear.


  11. Personally, I don’t think there are a lot of honest opinions given when one asks.
    I like honesty because I can’t tolerate everyone’s opinion. Sensitive people – men or woman – have a difficulty time with it.
    It doesn’t help me if I’m trying to improve something … i.e.: writing, clothing, art designs if everything is saying great. Nicely approached opinions can be of help. Harsh, evil opinions are more about the person trying to put the other person down.
    Then again … I sold my artfully created jewelry for 28 years. There are no greater critiques then the public. They let you know by the lack of sales at an art gallery or art show their opinions. They’ve spoken even if it’s silently.
    Interesting question creating a lot of dialog, Janet.
    Have a GREAT WEEKEND !!!! 😃

    • Izzy, love the long, thoughtful response. I agree that when you want constructive feedback, it can be frustrating. And giving constructive feedback can be difficult, too, especially if you don’t know the person very well.

      The jewelry story is similar to what I experienced when I was a personal trainer. If people kept rehiring me, I knew I was doing my job. If they stopped by stayed in shape, I’d also done my job. That was great feedback, especially when our girls were young, as being a parent doesn’t always give you uplifting feedback all the time. 🙂 I’d love to see some of your jewelry. Are you still making it?


      • No, Janet, I’m retired – 2007. I still run the paper work and etsy shop for my husband. I do have an online shop for liquidating what I have left which is a large amount as I retired due to health reasons. Sadly, I’ve neglected my shop to post on my 2 blogs. hahaha
        My kids keep saying they’ll be throwing them in a river when I’m gone. No appreciation … LOL …. and they’ve never had any interest in art. It seems that whatever I gravitate to they gravitate in the other direction. Now, that’s a critique right there. I suppose I had to learn to be thick skinned because my kids have always been very, very honest … at times, too much. I’ll leave the url, but if theres’ nothing there it’s because I’ve been distracted elsewhere … and … having FUN with my distraction.
        Thanks for the dialog. I’ve enjoyed it.

      • Izzy, neither of those links worked for me. 😦

      • I’ll have to check them out. As I have been neglectful they may have made changes. EEeeekkkk … I’m a terrible on-line business woman. Thanks for letting me know. 😳
        My husband was wondering why we hadn’t gotten orders lately. Eeekkk …. 😁

  12. Can I compliment your compliment article? Kidding aside, good point about the “look so much better” comment! Compliments come off badly when the attempt is to flatter. My art teacher always said be specific in criticism or compliment.

    • I’m always happy to read a compliment, so thanks! Specificity is the key, but with tact and caring. Thanks for commenting and visiting and enjoy the weekend.


  13. Indira says:

    Dear Janet, it’s a nice subject. I was criticised in my childhood so much by friends and neighbours who thought being sincere and truthful is good. But how it develops inferiority complex in one they did not understand and I ended up praising everyone. I hate negative compliments. Though sometimes it’s hard to say the truth and find words which are sincere and soothing both. I never tell a lie but while complementing I prefer it or mix it with nice words.

    • Indira, you’re correct. The unvarnished truth can be so hurtful and it can be difficult to respond truthfully and nicely to people. Certainly worth working towards, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts.