Take A Compliment Already (Don't Give It Back Though?)
March 17, 2011 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Is "you too" a faux-pas when someone compliments you?

I didn't know where else to go when a co-worker was telling me that my hair looked great.

We have the same length and color of hair. I'm a straight guy & she's a lesbian; there's a genuine, friendly 'wait'll the chicks get a load of me' kinship there (based on past conversations, not just an assumption on my part), hence the compliment, but it's my response that I'm wondering about:

After the conversation dwindled, and I didn't have any more gracious, humble responses, I said "yours looks great too," and for some reason, it seemed to make a cold ripple.

Was this failing to take a compliment, and thus insulting?
posted by herbplarfegan to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Compliment something else! "Yours looks great too..." can come off as a little perfunctory and back-handed, so move on to her sweater or her shoes or something.

Alternately, just drop the whole compliments thing and switch to another topic.
posted by muddgirl at 9:01 AM on March 17, 2011

Anyone being insulted by that is obviously neurotic and beyond your help. That said, the best response to a compliment is still just "thank you."
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:02 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: maybe it was because you didn't say it immediately after she complimented you and it was just something you said bc you had nothing else to say. It could have been taken as, "but your hair is okay, no need to worry."
posted by Neekee at 9:03 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some people just give compliments a lot more comfortably than they receive them.
posted by hermitosis at 9:16 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It's fine to just say "thank you!"

Another time, you could compliment their hair when it's truly spontaneous.
posted by Miko at 9:26 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know how you feel, the awkward pause after a compliment. I've taken to just being very gracious about the compliment, and perhaps commenting on "when I got it done (or where I got it, if it is clothes)" or even just saying that you like the style too.

Most people don't give a compliment to receive one, and so I don't think it's necessary.
posted by groovesquirrel at 9:30 AM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: It's not that it's a faux pas, but that it can be interpreted as disingenuous. I'm sure you do feel that her hair looks great, but when she says it to you spontaneously and you parrot it back, it can seem like you're unable to find something to compliment on her. The best response to a compliment is "thank you."
posted by catwoman429 at 9:33 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't do it. You're devaluing her compliment by automatically echoing it back to her. A specific compliment on how great your hair looks today shouldn't get an automatic "you too" the way you would automatically say "you too" to a phrase like "Have a nice day." It's always a good time to wish someone a nice day, but we're supposed to keep up at least a pretense that when someone says, "Hey, your hair looks really nice today," it's a genuine reaction to how your hair actually looks on that day.
posted by John Cohen at 9:51 AM on March 17, 2011

It feels like you're saying it only because you think you have to and not because you really think it. A perfunctory, weak-sounding "me/you too" is not very enthusiastic or genuine feeling.

Think of a relationship where you were always saying "I love you" and they were only ever saying "Oh yeah um... me too!" without every initiating an "I love you."
posted by thebazilist at 10:05 AM on March 17, 2011

My grandmother always told me that the best response to a compliment was a sincere thank you. And if you felt inclined to compliment the person in return, make an effort to compliment something different from what you had just been complimented on.
So, "Your hair looks great today."
"Thank you so much, that's sweet of you to say. You know, I've always loved your taste in shoes. Those blue ones you wore last week were awesome."

That way it doesn't seem like an auto-compliment, but at the same time you are letting the person know you pay attention to them.
posted by teleri025 at 10:22 AM on March 17, 2011

Response by poster: Good responses.

On my part, it was a total misfire-- I knew it right away. I just wanted to touch base with the hivemind for some consideration of the subtleties involved-- which is just what you brought.

Thank y'all. --and all of your hair looks great.
posted by herbplarfegan at 10:34 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Thanks for the compliment on my hair, OP - it means a lot, coming from someone who's hair always looks great. :D

(or rather, I find that if I really do want to flip the compliment, it's nice if it takes the form of "that means even more coming from You...")
posted by ldthomps at 10:54 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Thank you, that means a lot to me because I really try to get the straightener out every morning"


"Thank you, that means a lot because you have an amazing sense of style yourself."
posted by jenlovesponies at 12:34 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think some people just don't have this misfire issue much, so a verbal fumble to them seems like an intentional slight. Those of us who've ever replied "happy birthday to you, too!" and then cringed for the next six hours (days... weeks...) know better.

"Thank you" is the correct response that I've tried to train myself to say, whenever I get that deer-in-the-headlights complement freeze.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:44 PM on March 17, 2011

I don't really compliment people back when they compliment me, I just say Thank You and then something about the item they complimented. IE:

Nice shirt! "Thanks, I got it at X" or "it was really inexpensive" or "my mom suggested it" etc.
Love your haircut! "Thanks, Lindsay at X did a great job" or "I am glad with how it turned out too" etc.
What a pretty face! "Thanks, people say I look like my dad" or "that's so nice of you to say so" etc.

It generally acknowledges the compliment and then turns the conversation onto something both people can talk about. And it doesn't come off as falsely modest or like you are giving a compliment because you feel beholden.
posted by hepta at 1:47 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's a truth universally acknowledged that the compliment that follows a compliment is not a real compliment at all.

Like a few people have said, just say thank you and then move on.
posted by oxford blue at 12:24 AM on March 18, 2011

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