Thursday: It’s How You Say It

Sweater: Banana Republic (similar) | Skirt: eBay | Tights: DKNY | Shoes: Vince Camuto | Necklace: Ann Taylor (similar) | Bracelet: Ann Taylor (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Lovesick 

I received two compliments from strangers on my walk to work. One made me smile, the other made me want to punch the guy in the throat. The funny thing is both men said almost exactly the same thing, it was just how they said it.

The first man was walking a bit faster of a pace than me, and turned into a store. As he went to open the store door, he told me I looked nice today, looking me in the face and smiled. He didn’t wait for much of a reaction (I just had enough time to genuinely say thank you before he was in the store), he just wanted to let me know what he thought and I was honestly happy he did.

The second man was standing next to me at a corner as we waited for the light to change. I could feel his eyes on me, turned to him and he slowly looked me up and down and told me I looked nice. He then stared at me without a smile, without emotion in a way that can easily give you the willies. Being me and knowing I was surrounded by many people in the daylight I stared him down as well not saying a thing until he looked away so he could feel what it’s like. I didn’t thank him for the compliment, because the way in which he said it… it wasn’t a compliment. Saying thank you to such an experience in my mind would be a submissive gesture.

I think in this day and age, many are afraid to compliment a stranger for fear of seeming lecherous, dishonest, inappropriate. However, an honest compliment to a stranger can totally transform that person’s day. If the first gentleman hadn’t been so nice and selfless with his comment, I may have submitted to the slimeball and quietly thanked him because I wouldn’t have had the confidence or strength to stand up to him. This isn’t just for male/female interactions. A genuine compliment from a fellow woman can boost your confidence, encourage you to try new things, bring a bit of pep in your step. Don’t be afraid to tell others when they impress you, inspire you, stand out in a good way. Just consider how you phrase it so they realize it is genuine. It feels good when someone notices when you have made an effort or chosen to be authentic, pass that goodness out to others!

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  • http://www.mischiefmydear.com/ Ashley // Dramatis Personae

    It’s funny, because if I were to imagine the scenarios played out with women saying them (to another woman), I feel like the reactions would be very similar. If a woman looked me up and down slowly in an appraising way, and then told me I looked nice, it would come across as very judgmental.

    Whenever I compliment someone, I try to keep it light, with a happy tone, and quick–to the point. “You ladies look awesome!” or “I LOVE those shoes.” And keep on truckin!

  • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/ Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen

    Exactly, I don’t think it’s a gender/sexual thing but more how it is said by anyone. The second man could have been a woman and I would have still wanted to punch her in the throat and still would ahve stared her down in return. All about the delivery!! :-)

  • Morgan Rudder

    I had a guy lick his lips and tell me he liked my shoes at preschool pick up the other day. I have been so nervous about seeing that guy the last week I can’t even see straight. It just made me feel incredibly dirty. But at the same time, I don’t think he meant it that way–he was with his kid for chrissakes and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    There is a lady in my office who just had a baby. I’ve been trying to make it a point to notice when she dresses up or is wearing something new because that time is soooo hard. The other day she hugged me and told me that I made her day, and that kind of made mine too.

  • Jamie

    I agree, a genuine compliment from a stranger can make your day! (But I totally know what you mean about the creep ones, ugh.) Anyway, I am in love with that skirt! You look great!

    Jamie
    Forever81

  • nancy @ adore to adorn

    wow…two completely different experiences. The other guy sounds so funky. I really dislike it when people just…stare! I have no idea what is up with that. Granted, I admit I love to people watch…but I don’t stare at people in the face or (hopefully) give them the creeps. Honestly, I’m just looking at their clothes rather than giving judgement.

    I think you look great in this outfit! Love the skirt!

    xo,
    nancy

    http://adoretoadorn.blogspot.com

  • http://www.scorchingstyle.com/ Ana

    That second guy sounds like creep! But in all honesty, you do look terrific! I am always afraid of crew neck sweaters because I am on the bustier side and I am always afraid of looking top-heavy, but you look so great with this BR sweater. Your outfit looks so simple, but chic and classic!

  • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/ Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen

    I have had this sweater… for at least a decade. While it’s merino it has a high Lycra content so it’s thin and stretchy and opaque and less bulky. Also adding the long necklace elongates and makes the bust look less like it’s up in my throat. :)

  • Lisa A Walter

    Your outfit is perfect. I love it…its so simple, graceful, classic and elegant.
    I think your response to both of the men was perfectly appropriate. Good call on the last guy….

  • SarahMikayla

    Good tip about the necklace!

  • http://dresseduplikealady.com/ Cammila

    I’m so glad you posted this wonderful sentiment! I try hard to never, ever hesitate to tell a stranger that I like their choices! Just the idea of wasting a chance to make someone happy with a thought I would be having anyway is ridiculous. I know I’m probably more effusive than the average bear, but I hope this is a behavior I can still be proud of, because I honestly do contemplate it quite a bit.

    I also I think a lot of women can relate to your story about the two different comments making you feel completely different. I don’t mind a hetero man enjoying my womanliness if I feel like he just wants to make me happy with his remark, as opposed to him wanting to fulfill some weird need of his own.

    One time, last year, I was crossing a street in a little summer dress and some dude yelled at me from 1/2 a block away “You look beautiful! Just take it as a compliment!” :)

  • Charlotte Issyvoo

    I find one of the nice things about getting older (I’m 42), is that I get far less nasty attention from men. The attention I do get is quiet, gentle, and subtle. In other words, it’s respectful. The second guy acted like he owned you and you were mostly an object there for his pleasure. The first guy acted like you were a human being who owns herself.

    I’m bi so have had attention from women too and I can whole-heartedly agree that women can be just as obnoxious in their attentions as men can. The difference, though, is that men tend to be bigger and stronger, so their attentions can be much more frightening. Good men realize this. Unthinking men don’t.

    One of my favourite things is to compliment women who are very old or who might not be conventionally “beautiful” so aren’t used to compliments. Old women often say, “I’ve become invisible.” I like to let them know that this is not so.

    sublimemercies.com

  • jo

    Well, street harassment is a real and gendered problem. Lots of men has got something wrong with them and think they’re entitled to comment on women in the street in a negative way. It could be subtle like the creepy guy you met or more blatant like a man yelling “nice tits” after a 13-year old. It’s a power thing.

    I’m glad men like the first one you met also exists, they should be the norm.

    You’re right that there is an enormous difference between a real compliment and things said with bad intention in general.

    Ps. You do look very nice today :) It’s classic, but not boring, outfit.

  • Sarah

    I’m the same! I also try to never miss an opportunity to compliment people. (Or just to smile and be polite.) It’s the smallest of things, but it can do so much to turn someone’s day around.

  • Elena

    Good for you for your head high response to the slimeball, and good for the other gentleman in complimenting a woman the way he did!
    I just bought the blue Coldwater Creek dress off the CC website (50% off) AND I got a free shipping code by taking the time to do a 30 second Google search for coupons/offers. I saw YOU in the blue dress, Allie, AND I got the coupon tip from you as well~so THANK YOU, Allie!!! You look oh-so-mahvelous today, dollink!

  • Patti_NotDeadYetStyle

    Well done, Allie. I don’t get much unwanted male attention any more, but I remember these incidents very well. Your response (non-verbal) was assertive. We’re not meat hanging in the window!

  • rebecca

    ,,,it doesn’t surprise me that you received compliments with this outfit, it looks FABULOUS on you. love those VC pumps to.die.for! sorry that the creep made you feel uneasy, you did exactly what i would do, staring him down right back! i enjoy being generous and genuine with my compliments because with kind words one has the ability to make a substantial difference in someone’s day. i know…it’s happened to me.,,,

  • Jo H.

    So true!

    Love the 4th picture down – cute shot!

  • Sonia

    Allie, your outfit is stunning and I would compliment you if I saw walking down the street. Even though I live in New York, I don’t hesitate to compliment someone (male or female) if I felt the urge to do so. As a woman of a “certain age” I don’t get many compliments these days either, but, when I do, I offer a big smile and a thank you in return.

    In my opinion, I think you handled the second male appropriately. He was just rude.

  • Lorena Lorena

    So true Allison – it’s how you say things.
    I try to compliment people (without sounding like a brown noser) – sometimes it can make all the difference to a person – and besides who does not like a compliment ?!