Jan. 7th, 2015 02:58 pm
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
[personal profile] liv
I had an interesting conversation about this sort of general topic, which reminded me: do you prefer compliments on your appearance and body, or compliments on your intellect and personality?

I vividly remember coming across a comment by Simone de Beauvoir, it might even be in The second sex but more likely in her autobiographical stuff, to the effect that intelligent women would rather be told they're beautiful than that they're clever. Her reasoning was that if you're intelligent, you know perfectly well you're intelligent, and you don't need the external validation. Whereas being beautiful only really counts if other people find you beautiful. I mean, I was a strange kid, I spent a lot of my teen years mentally arguing with Simone de Beauvoir, anyway this seemed at best an over-generalization.

I mean. SdB was writing too early to know about the Dunning-Kruger effect, but my own experience very much bears out the idea that people who are highly able tend to under-estimate their abilities because they understand a discipline well enough to be aware of how much they don't know and can't do. Whereas perhaps a less skilled person might not even be able to imagine what it would be like to understand the most advanced elements of their field. Mind you, perhaps I'm over-generalizing too, because I work in academia which is absolutely rife with impostor syndrome and systems hugely geared to making highly intelligent people feel inadequate. And ok, de Beauvoir herself went from being top of her class at the Sorbonne, to being generally considered one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, maybe she knew perfectly well she was intelligent, but I'm not sure that's true of intelligent women in less rarefied contexts.

And part of me wants to argue with SdB on the obvious feminist grounds. There's already plenty of people telling women, even young girls and tiny female-assigned babies, that their only value is in how pretty they are. And equally, most women will encounter any number of assumptions that they are stupid just because of their gender, and perhaps even more so if they are in fact pretty, because there's this awful double-bind where you're worthless if you don't "look good" but if you do put effort into your appearance you're obviously dumb and shallow. Why should a prominent feminist thinker be adding to that chorus? When I praise a woman for her intelligence, whether to her face or when describing her, it feels political, it feels like my teaspoonworth of countering the sexism of judging women by their appearance and coming out negative however they rate.

I think there's maybe something in the idea about self-knowledge versus external validation, maybe. I can see an argument that nobody is really "qualified" to comment on one's intelligence; if the commenter is less intelligent than you (assuming that's a meaningfully measurable thing, which I'm not at all sure is valid, really) their opinion isn't worth much, and if they're more intelligent than you then what are they doing complimenting you? Whereas an appearance compliment is still flattering whether the complimenter is themselves pretty or ugly.

IIRC SdB was mainly talking about a context of people, mostly men, giving her compliments in order to flirt with her, rather than all possible compliments ever. (Though her style tends very much to broad sweeping statements about Women or People.) And the flirting context is very much about telling a person they're appealing to the flirter, not necessarily virtuous in the abstract. So the whole point there is somebody else's opinion of you. It's obviously inappropriate if people insist women (or anyone) should at all times prioritize being attractive to them, but if you're actually in a situation where it's appropriate to let someone know you find them attractive, are appearance compliments really better?

I do try not to be a dualist, I try to remember that my body is me, it's not a suit that I wear or a place where I live. But by inclination I think of myself as basically a mind; sometimes compliments on my appearance feel like somebody decided to congratulate me on living in a beautiful area of the country or on how great the weather is. Also when I was growing up everybody kept telling me that I'm amazingly intelligent and telling me or strongly implying that I'm ugly, and I've kind of internalized that. (I was pre-school age but highly verbal when a nice little old lady from synagogue said to my mother What a... erm, an intelligent little girl you have, Mrs B!, and I have a very strong memory of thinking, yes, intelligent enough to figure out that you can't quite bring yourself to say pretty, even when you're being soppy.) Specifically about beautiful, I kept hearing over and over as a teenager that anyone who tells you you're beautiful is trying to sell you something or worse, trying to groom you.

As an adult I'm a lot prettier than I was as a child or teenager anyway, and also I hang out with people who don't have a single fixed idea of what "pretty" looks like, so between those I have a reasonable degree of confidence in my appearance. But my immediate response if someone compliments my appearance still tends to be disbelief. Sometimes I think the complimenter is trying to get something from me, and sometimes I think they're trying to be nice to me and make me feel better from sincere motives. But in either case I have to work through that reaction to get to the interpretation of, maybe they said that because they actually literally think I'm good looking.

There are of course different possible compliments on appearance. There's a Twitter meme I've encountered sometimes to the effect that women (there goes that generalization again!) want to be called beautiful much more than they want to be called hot. I don't think that's true for me; I mean, I don't want sleazy, deniably-threatening sexualized "compliments", but that pretty much goes without saying. In an appropriate, safe context, though, I'm often more comfortable with people telling me I'm sexy or they fancy me, than with people telling me I'm pretty or beautiful. I think it's because sexual sorts of compliments are clearly referring to the complimenter's taste, there's no pretence that I'm being compared to some kind of external standard.

Compliments directly on how intelligent I am I have mixed feelings about. I mean, I don't take any more credit for happening to be intelligent than I do for happening to have shiny hair and a curvy figure. And intelligence isn't a moral virtue any more than beauty is, I'm not in any way a better person than someone else just because I happen to be very good at IQ test type puzzles and I have a lot of academic qualifications and do a "brainy" job. But since I've gone through my whole life being validated for how intelligent I supposedly am, at least a compliment on my intelligence feels like it's addressed to me and not to generic-flirt-object.

I would I think rather be complimented on stuff I'm actually proud of, my ethics or my interesting ideas, being a good friend (if you know me well) or a good conversationalist (if you've just met me). Or of course something specific I've actually done, rather than the kind of person I am. Those aren't really either personality or appearance, really; if I'm choosing between those two specifically, I generally prefer personality.

It seems obvious to me that at least some parts of this are gendered, but I'm not sure quite how to articulate that aspect. Complimenting appearance is possibly something done by higher status people to lower status people, hence it's much more socially normal for men to compliment women and adults to compliment children than the other way round. I do compliment good-looking men on their appearance sometimes, partly because I think it's a bit sad that men rarely get that sort of appreciation. But I don't know if I get it right, I feel like it can come across as deliberately violating gender norms for the sake of it, or being inappropriately sexual rather than just giving a compliment.

As for how it works for minority genders, anyone want to chip in? Trying to compliment people actually on their gender is even more of a messed up power dynamic than the male / female thing, and I get the impression that goes on. Also in general I think ideas of what counts as attractive are based on really binary assumptions, that men look good if they are stereotypically masculine and women look good if they are stereotypically feminine. Except that some of the stereotypes about masculinity are specifically about being ugly or at least making no effort with your appearance; a man who is too pretty might be seen as a bit metrosexual, ie not really masculine and therefore not really considered attractive. But I'm thinking that people who don't send strong gender signals, as well as people who are in fact non-binary, will be rated as lower on the mythical attractiveness scale. There's a kind of weird beauty standard for what's acceptably "androgynous" too, and I expect that plays in to this question. Anyway I don't really know what I'm talking about here, but I didn't want to write the whole post as if the only thing that matters is the dynamic between straight men and straight women.

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Date: 2015-01-07 03:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, it's true that I call you beautiful when I want something, mostly tea. But this was not a call for compliments, so I will merely add that I *know* I'm hot, I *know* I'm intelligent although less so now than when I was younger, but I don't know I'm interesting, so I quite like to be told that, or things which amount to that.

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Date: 2015-01-07 03:37 pm (UTC)
jae: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jae
This is a great question. I would have thought that I'd feel the same way you do, but I think I'm uncomfortable with both, to be honest! I'm fine with compliments that are about something fleeting on either front, like "you look really nice today" or "that was a really great talk you just gave." But compliments like "you are a beautiful woman" (just generally) or "you are so brilliant and smart" (just generally) would send me hiding under a blanket. :)


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Date: 2015-01-07 03:51 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
Interesting points.

On the completely shallow level, I think I prefer comments on my appearance, because they happen so rarely - the only one that springs to mind is my sister noting a couple of years ago, in slightly backhanded fashion: 'at least you have pretty good legs'.

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Date: 2015-01-07 04:16 pm (UTC)
damerell: NetHack. (normal)
From: [personal profile] damerell
Intellect and personality; I might retain those long after I look like a particularly wrinkly prune.

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Date: 2015-01-07 04:36 pm (UTC)
ursula: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ursula
I am more comfortable with compliments that don't seem to come from a place of insecurity. That used to be more of an issue with comments on intelligence (because doing math is automatically intimidating) but in the past few years I've been trying to work out how to deal with appearance compliments that translate as "You are thinner than me." (I will now ruthlessly suppress my automatic caveats as to the truth of such statements.)

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Date: 2015-01-07 04:38 pm (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
I was going to say that I always prefer comments on personality to comments on appearance, but actually I think my preferences follow a slightly different axis - I am more comfortable with compliments about things I have chosen to do or be. So "nice hat!" cheers me up in a way that "nice brain!" doesn't. Or maybe that's appearance as an aspect of personality?

On the other hand, I don't mind comments on specific physical things - "your hair is a lovely colour", say. I think I would distrust most general physical compliments because I'm so far from socially-acceptable standards of beauty - I'm not particularly bothered about it, but if someone says something like that then I want to know why. Same as I would if they complimented me for being tall!

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tw weight loss talk

Date: 2015-01-07 04:49 pm (UTC)
pretty_panther: (hp: flying car)
From: [personal profile] pretty_panther
I think people liked to be complimented on both. Even if you are really intelligent, someone recognising that can be a big deal given this world does seem to focus on beauty. Yet if that super intelligent lady dresses themselves up for the evening, recognition of that can be wonderful too.

If you are not as intelligent, someone saying you are would be an amazing feeling but just as much so is being told you are pretty.

I think...people want both if they are honest with themselves? I am pretty, no I will stop being demure, I am very intelligent. I am also very pretty by beauty standards, at least in the face. My proportions are a bit off. My breasts are large in comparison to my body so I don't fit any molds. People think only fat people have large breasts but I am a relatively slim person with large breasts (size 12, 30/J). I only stopped at a size 12 on my weight loss plan because if my back slimmed anymore I would be a 28J and that...doesn't exist.

I guess personal experiences are good here?

Ok so, you know I have been very ill for a long time. I looked pale and gaunt and well...ill. So when I go out with no make up on and people say 'wow you look good!' I love that, because it means I look at least better, and maybe even healthy. This comes from people who don't know I'm ill.

If I put effort into an outfit and sit and do my make up it is always for me. Always. I don't care what others think, but it still nice to hear someone say I look nice after all that time poking my hair with a comb. But if they didn't say anything, I would not be bothered.

I adore when people compliment I am clever, because I always doubted it and felt a huge pressure to get good grades while being diabetic. My bio parents had great grades and the hospital wondered if I would pass any standard grades at all let alone highers because of my health. So to have done that, I take glory in compliments yes.

What I don't like is when people think I'm not clever enough. A friend's husband has an IQ high enough to have got him into MENSA so he thinks himself very superior to me despite the fact that I went to university and have proven myself not to be stupid. He has not. He dropped out yet he and his family hold his IQ over me like it makes me stupid.

Intelligence is not just an IQ. An IQ is great but so is hard work and getting a result regardless of what your IQ is. As far as I can tell from internet tests my IQ is pretty high in itself but years of this person speaking to me like I don't know anything, and always in proper English in order to undermine my Scottish-English hit me hard. Very hard. As it happens I don't talk to that person anymore, cutting myself off from physical contact with one of my best friends but I do think people can take love in one point and in other, or be destroyed by one or another.

Sorry if that last section doesn't make sense. Given the best friend thing and such I get rather emotional but I wanted to give my full view. :)

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Date: 2015-01-07 04:53 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
Compliments on my intelligence are nice, but not very, um, surprising? Is that arrogant?

I spent my school years being pretty much the cleverest or one of the cleverest. Then I went to Cambridge, which gave me the experience of being merely average or even underachieving - and turned that around in my final year to get a First in a subject to which I was very suited. And now I've spent 15+ years in work, and am well-paid for being good at analysing and fixing things with the POWER OF MY BRAIN.

I never mind being told that I'm clever, but usually prefer it if I've been clever in a way that has solved a problem or amused someone.

Compliments on my appearance are a much more mixed bag. I know what my body looks like and what society thinks it should look like, and I'm still working on being happy with myself as I am. But I've had sufficient experience of being found attractive to feel confident that attractiveness is a feature I can possess.

So being told I'm pretty / beautiful is frankly unbelievable; being told I'm attractive is far more believable but isn't always welcome or appropriate. I've talked before about finding "compliments" on weight loss distressing; also compliments on how my hair looks "much better now" it's grown out seem to be more about how much better I'm conforming now.

What I think I find easiest to accept (in an appearance-compliment) is being complimented on a particular choice of garment / acccessory / colour. Taste isn't the same as beauty, but lasts longer.

But being complimented on a specific action or specific words is easiest of all.
Edited (clarifying 'easiest to accept' in an appearance context; added last sentence.) Date: 2015-01-07 04:56 pm (UTC)

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Date: 2015-01-07 04:57 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
... yeah, as you say above I'd rather have specific compliments than general, on the whole. By and large I don't think my embodiment is the point of how I interact with people, so compliments on it feel strange and kind of intrusive -- particularly if they're from people who don't know that I'm trans, or who think they're being polite by TELLING ME THAT I AM BETTER THAN MOST WOMEN DRIVERS WITH RESPECT TO HANDLING MY WHEELCHAIR*. Though again to some extent it's a matter of expression - if I am in fact wearing a particularly striking combination of clothing as thing-I-chose-deliberately then that's something I'm much happier having commented on than the happenstance of my physicality.

I think "intelligence" as a generally-understood concept is deeply flawed. I'd far rather be complimented on a particular insight or skill or solution to a problem (with the caveat wrt whether the person giving the "compliment" is actually in any position whatsoever to make an informed judgment) than a blanket statement, by and large, though I'm pretty comfortable with the semi-specific your-pattern-of-behaviour end of things ("you make things seem more possible by doing x,y,z"; "your insights are consistently helpfully and expressed with appropriate levels of tact, so I wondered if you might have the time to offer some advice on..." etc) than the vague-to-the-point-of-meaninglessness end.

And even in the context of physical relationships (I loved you for your body/but that doesn't make a fool of me/there are those who say your body's really you) I'd far rather be given compliments about it-as-inhabited-by-me than it-as-in-general; "it's really beautiful when you do" rather than "this feature you share with lots of other people is beautiful" or what have you (and that can be as simple as "you have a gloriously expressive face and in that there is beauty" or whatever).

And yes, the reason I am being quite so florid is that this is slightly fraught territory for me still. ;)

* I did not rip him a new one. I spent the entire train journey fuming about how if he was going to be that much of a condescending ableist misogynist douche to complete strangers the least he could do would be to have the good grace to wear a suit that fucking fit him, but did not in fact end up acidly saying so. Obviously this is an extreme example and most people just express shock and surprise that I can in fact turn around or move in a straight line or go round corners without the sneering contempt, BUT HEY.

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Date: 2015-01-08 12:49 am (UTC)
shehasathree: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shehasathree
Being complimented for things that aren't really under my control (whether I'm considered conventionally attractive, how my brain works) always just seemed weird to me. I'd much rather be complimented for being kind, or generous, or hard-working, or...something.

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Date: 2015-01-07 07:38 pm (UTC)
pensnest: Drawing of Victorian woman, caption Oh my (Victorian Oh My)
From: [personal profile] pensnest
Interesting. Hmm.

I like to be complimented on things that seem to me to be true. For example, if someone were to tell me that I'm beautiful, I would think them stupid, because I'm not, but if they were to tell me that I have a beautiful smile I would be gratified, because it's true and they noticed and thought to say so.

And I agree with you that I'd rather be complimented on things I'm actually proud of—someone at my knitting group said I was really good at colours, which made me happy, and it's always nice to have something I've made complimented. By contrast, being told I must be so clever because I'm knitting is just irritating!

When my sister and I were small, I was the clever one and she was the pretty one. Horribly unfair to both of us.

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Date: 2015-01-07 07:58 pm (UTC)
electricant: (Default)
From: [personal profile] electricant
A couple of thoughts to add, in no real coherent fashion:

1. Regarding complimenting women on appearance vs. intelligence, I think another factor is one that you touch on with a personal example - the fact that all compliments directed at women are in fact comments on appearance and that complimenting a woman's intelligence or personality is often code implying that she's physically unattractive. Don't have anything nice to say about her looks? Compliment her personality instead. Which ends up with a situation where only compliments on appearance are genuine compliments; all others are backhanded slights.

2. The fact that compliments on a woman's appearance often take the form of comments on weight. Which is all too frequently about policing women's bodies and not about appreciation. I suspect that, because of this, compliments on looking like you've lost weight are usually received in a more complex and fraught way than compliments on wearing those clothes well, or being graceful, or having a good complexion.

3. Trans people who have medically transitioned sometimes get compliments from people who know their gender history about how they look really good, look amazing, wow, no one could ever tell, etc. This is often code for saying "I used to perceive you as your assigned gender, but now I perceive you as your actual gender". While it's always nice to know that people see you for the person you are, it's not actually a comment on appearance, it's a comment on that person's perceptions of gender. Those sorts of compliments privilege a cisgender perspective on transitioning and are a backhanded way of judging the success of a trans person's transition on the basis of whether or not they are consistently read as their identified gender by cisgender folk. Whereas complimenting a transitioned person on how happy or confident they're looking now, or how they seem to be standing up taller, or holding themselves with more pride, these are all compliments that acknowledge that the trans person has their own internal feelings and experiences about their transition that don't necessarily have anything to do with cisgender people's assumptions.

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Date: 2015-01-08 02:37 pm (UTC)
khalinche: (Default)
From: [personal profile] khalinche
I think your first point is a really good one. It's really sad that saying that a woman has a Lovely Personality is basically code for saying that she's not very good-looking, but it's undeniably a trope now.

On the point of paying compliments to trans people, what you say also chimes with my experience in particular ways. When I was initially smitten with the woman who, um, has been in my life now for a while, all the things I found compelling and sexy about her were to do with her confidence, her bearing and her sense of humour, and so that's what I talked about. None of it had anything to do with her being more or less effective at passing.

A good friend who is a trans woman sometimes has periods of dressing more femme, or spending more time and energy on putting together outfits than at other times, and it takes some thought and tact to convey, 'You look really cute today, I respect the work that goes into performing femininity, because getting your nails done and getting your outfit right and working on all that, especially if your teenage years were not spent working out clothes and makeup and all that, is a blend of art and labour, and I salute you for doing that labour in the interests of looking good', without coming across as saying something like (pardon me), 'Oh, you look really properly girly, well done!'. I think the social dynamics around appearance, beauty-as-labour and compliments probably work quite differently for trans guys, though.

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Date: 2015-01-07 08:46 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
I like to be complimented on things I've worked at. So when people notice the effort I've put into making my body more healthy (and thereby more attractive by social norms) then that pleases me more than when people say they like how I look today without reference to the change. Similarly, I love when I get recognition for intelligent things I've done that I've found hard, but hate the throwaway comment "you must be so clever"

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Date: 2015-01-07 09:18 pm (UTC)
nanila: me (Default)
From: [personal profile] nanila
I respond awkwardly to compliments about my person. This is because I usually default to thinking that either the other person wants something from me (reassurance of their own value, a favour, sex, etc) or they're not sincere. And I can't always evaluate whether I should reassess those assumptions in context of the individual interaction fast enough to give a timely response.

I respond better to compliments about something I've made or done (scientific achievement or photography or art). Some of this is probably because I have made the choice to share them and I feel confident about their value. Whereas there isn't a lot I can do about sharing, say, my face with someone I'm speaking to in person. :P
Edited Date: 2015-01-07 09:19 pm (UTC)

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Date: 2015-01-07 10:53 pm (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
I hate being told I'm clever, because I never know what to say. Because a)well, duh but also b)not as much as most people I know and c)unless I'm doing something clever *for you* why care? it's not like I *tried hard* to be clever (I'm lazy, I'm exactly as clever as I could be without working hard).

I like compliments on things I actually *worked* for. Like things I've made (OK, some things I make are pretty things to wear). From people I know well compliments on *recent* cool things I've done are great; but compliments on things I've *always been* seem odd.

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Date: 2015-01-08 05:36 am (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
I love compliments on my appearance, but I'm often nonplussed by general 'you're beautiful' (or, on one memorable occasion, 'LOOK AT HER, she has no idea how gorgeous she is!' 'of course I do, I just don't think it's an ACHIEVEMENT') comments. I am most delighted by compliments on things I exercise regular control over, eg, my clothes or hair. (But I respond to those ones wrong, too. instead of blushing and saying thank you, I grin and say I love it too, and tell you how and where I got it.)

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Date: 2015-01-08 03:19 pm (UTC)
khalinche: (Default)
From: [personal profile] khalinche
This is a really interesting question. I like all compliments, really, I think my favourite kind of compliment to be paid is one which is not obvious to me, and which is also very sincere. At the risk of sounding churlish, some compliments feel less valuable with repetition. For example, there's a thing that happens when I talk in Spanish with a Spanish-speaking person, and without fail it goes like this:

'Blah blah blah small talk'
Them: So where are you from?
Me: Scotland
Them: What? Shut up. I was sure you were from some other Spanish speaking country whose accent I couldn't quite place.
Me: No, definitely Scotland
Them: But your parents are Spanish or something?
Me: No
Them: But how do you speak Spanish exactly like a native Spanish speaker, then? It's incredible!

It's boastful to reproduce it, I'm sorry. But also, this happens almost every single time I have a conversation in Spanish without talking in English first and it's predictable to the point of producing impatience. I would happily have a fast-forward button on reality to get through it more quickly. I think this goes, to a lesser extent, to compliments which are very obvious.

But I do like compliments which acknowledge the effort that I've put into my appearance. Getting femme-d up is not something that comes very naturally to me, but it produces an effect which I like, and I like it when people confirm the effect. The kind of grooming which gets socially coded as feminine, or producing feminine beauty, is onerous and sometimes painful, and I like to have that work acknowledged by someone complimenting, e.g. the beautiful manicure that I winced through fifteen minutes of pinching and clipping for. Compliments on appearance, especially on a special occasion when you're wearing a nice outfit and have makeup on, doesn't at all feel 'like somebody decided to congratulate me on living in a beautiful area of the country or on how great the weather is'. It feels like the payback you get for spending eighteen fucking minutes balancing hand mirror, glasses, bathroom sink, tissues and tiny containers of shiny powder and black goop to make your eyes prettier.

If I may derail the discussion a bit, what about the kind of compliments people like to give? Because I give compliments a lot, and I semi-consciously try to give people compliments on the kind of thing that they're not often complimented on. I tell [personal profile] diziet that they're beautiful a lot, because (a) surely everyone is constantly telling them how smart they are, I think they know by now (b) holy shit, have you seen them? But seriously, I believe in telling people immediately and often if they have done a kind thing, or made a good decision, or look unusually pretty that day, and I think you (Liv) do that too, or at least you are very positive and sweet, as a rule. Does that count as a compliment? I think I'd rather have my behaviour complimented than my appearance or skills.

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Date: 2015-01-08 05:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I often find I'm saying something, some stream of consciousness, and partner (usually partner rather than someone less close, because I am generally more inclined to shut up otherwise) says, oh, what a lovely compliment and I have to sift back through all the things I was saying to see which thing stood out. But I always find that somewhat baffling because to me it's like I've said it's raining and they've called me observant. But, er, I think the answer to your derailment is that I like to say things that make people happy but just happened to be near the surface of my mind.

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Date: 2015-01-08 10:39 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
Whereas an appearance compliment is still flattering whether the complimenter is themselves pretty or ugly.
Unless it's from 90% of teenage boys. 90% of teenage boys can fuck right off.

I most like compliments about things I've made, because it can be hard to judge your own work. When this is a work thing it largely overlaps with cleverness (though much of the time it's not that I'm being clever, it's that I know different things to the person in question). I like compliments about things I've chosen/matters of taste, which overlaps with appearance (but not in a "you're beautiful" way, more in a "I like your tattoo"/"you look good in those clothes" way) but also with choice of presents, taste in music, that sort of thing. And I like being complimented on my usefulness or interestingness. I guess I'm just insecure ;-)

I do a lot of complimenting at work (mostly of e.g. clothes choices but also of more work-related things when relevant) as social glue, because we're an academic department and people come and go very quickly and it's an easy way of keeping the atmosphere friendly.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-09 05:10 pm (UTC)
withagreatlove: (Default)
From: [personal profile] withagreatlove
I remember being complimented on my intelligence as a child for lack of conventional prettiness and being intelligent enough to pick up on the ambivalence.

I'd prefer compliments on my intelligence any day, although neither intelligence nor appearance are inherent virtues or achievements: it's what I choose to do with my intelligence that may be worthy of compliments and assessments.

In any case, now that I've grown older, I find myself caring less and less about my appearance. It's very liberating.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-10 03:16 am (UTC)
silveradept: A dragon librarian, wearing a floral print shirt and pince-nez glasses, carrying a book in the left paw. Red and white. (Dragon Librarian)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
I have trouble accepting most compliments, because experiences in my formative years made compliments based on intelligence useless (a child will only take "academic excellence" as their signature trait for so many years...and if it appears even after specifically being requested not to do it, well...) and on appearance suspect (because nobody spontaneously said they found me attractive at any point where a relationship could have developed until well after college, so body image confirmed). Impostor Syndrome helps try to negate situation-specific compliments because it says those not delivered spontaneously and without prompting do not count, and compliments on virtue or personality are met by "well, if they knew the complete me..."

So, I guess the compliment I would like to see and that works best for me is "This/You have been useful/helpful to me", with the ability to provide specific examples, so that brainweasels can't find a way around the compliment. I guess that makes it a non-appearance compliment I prefer.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-11 09:50 am (UTC)
kerrypolka: Contemporary Lois Lane with cellphone (Default)
From: [personal profile] kerrypolka
This reminded me of something Bruce Springsteen did that I found quite funny: in a pop-fluffy song on one of his early albums, the singer describes a woman he's just met as "young and pretty". When I heard him sing it live he changed it to "young and- intelligent!" as if he'd decided that calling random women "pretty" is Not Done Anymore and settled on "intelligent" as the appropriate substitute for a general "I fancy this person and want to say something nice about them" compliment.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-17 06:27 pm (UTC)
ephemera: celtic knotwork style sitting fox (Default)
From: [personal profile] ephemera
*is late to the party* - I find it a lot easier to take compliments on things I *do* than things I *am*, although I also strive not to be rude or make the situation more awkward when people do compliment me - the one I hear relatively often is on my hair (I'm a natural red-head with longer than knee length hair), and I have a couple of pat replies down, starting with "just patience and lucky genetics" because that's all it is ;)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-02-16 01:44 am (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
I have a friend who is slightly-genderqueer-with-masculine-pronouns-in-person*, and every now and then he has a Really Good Hair Day, and I like to remark on that. He has very lovely long hair which he takes a certain amount of pride in, and some days it's really really really gorgeous. So I say "You're having a really good hair day today," every now and then. It's not necessarily something under his control, but he's pleased when he looks good.

He's also pleased when I notice a particularly terrible color combination he's deliberately gone for in his wardrobe. The neon green t-shirt and camel over-shirt was super egregious and he thought it was terrible, and was so pleased when I winced over it and said something tactful. Because I noticed, and he wasn't sure that anyone would! So now I mention it when he's mismatched, because odds are it was on purpose.

So I guess one of the common themes is, something that took work or that they're pleased with, especially if they don't expect anyone else to notice, but which isn't too personal for your relationship with them.

* How you address her in Second Life is somewhat different.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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