the importance of unusual compliments — guest post by molly ford

Molly Ford is a writer living in New York City. She has captured my heart as the brilliance behind one of my favorite blogs, Smart Pretty and Awkward. As someone who has always made ridiculous strides to be prettier, smarter, and less awkward, I’ve found help (and hope!) in each of Molly’s adorable SPA blog posts over time. She also appreciates Diet Coke just like myself. So make sure to check out SPA after you read her guest post on FBDC!

You’re pretty. I like your dress. I want your shoes.

Why are these the most common type of compliment young women give to one another?

While it is nice to hear that someone else besides you likes your outfit, it is only a momentary high. I much prefer the unusual compliments; the ones women never give other women except in long birthday letters when they reflect on their friendship. I want women to start praising, flattering, calling out the good stuff in other women on deeper topics than fashion choices. And I want them to start doing it out loud, to each other, within earshot of other women. Every day.

Since a very young age, I’ve been a reader of memoirs and self-help books. I love when successful, interesting people share advice drawn from their life experiences. In high school, I started a compliment box, an idea I got from one of these types of books.

I kept little note cards that each had a compliment I’d received that year. While I stopped the compliment box when I got to college, I came across it recently while cleaning out my childhood room. Flipping through the sections, I bypassed all the compliments on my eyes or my smile, which, while sweet, didn’t really tell me anything about me. I poured over the compliments on my schoolwork and my personality.

Compliments from others on your looks only reflect what the person looking at you can physically see. Compliments from others on intangible things reflect something more profound.

For girls and young women, it is valuable and vital to our self-esteem to hear validation from other women about our choices not related to fashion. We can all start today: working on praising others on their peacemaking skills; their ability to proof-read complicated documents quickly; or their willingness to major in a tough field. What we admire and respect in other women is not related to their style choices; it is something more. And we should tell them that.

You’re so good at mental math. You juggle your friends and your relationship so well. It makes me so proud to be your friend when I see your byline in the paper.

Courtesy: Ashley Poole Photography

While I enjoy wearing dresses, great heels, and getting my hair done, the best compliment I’ve gotten this year was when someone very special to me said simply, “You’re the funniest girl I’ve ever known, and will probably ever know.”

That’s the kind of compliment I’ll remember for months or even years. I might even have to resurrect my compliment box for the occasion.

19 thoughts on “the importance of unusual compliments — guest post by molly ford

  1. Pingback: Smart Pretty and Awkward » Blog Archive » “There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope” — Bern Williams

  2. You’re the best Molly! While I love fashion blogs, I truly love SP&A for not only it’s thoughtful advice but the kindness behind it. While I’m sure I’ve heard “I love your shoes, necklace, etc” (all welcome), but I have a friend who told me that I am “such a special person” and that warms my heart every time I think of it…it also makes me want to live up to the compliment each and every day!


  3. I couldn’t agree more. I really enjoy reading fashion blogs but the ones I continually go back to are the ones which are versatile and talk more and more about their ideas, thoughts and feelings just like SP&A. xxx

  4. Love it! And the compliment box? What a great idea! Wish I’d started one years ago. But I can remember many of the unusual (and therefore special) compliments I’ve received over the years–because, just like you said, they mean much more. And so they stick out in memory.

  5. That’s so true. I actually had an older guy in my neighborhood say to me the other day, “What a bright smile!” It was totally non-creepy and I was quite flattered. What I liked about it was that I was feeling particularly joyful on a lovely day and it was clearly showing in my smile. On the other hand, being told that I’m smart doesn’t have the same effect because I was told that often as a kid, often to the exclusion of any other type of complement. I wanted to be more than just “the smart girl” and would have killed for a complement on my appearance.

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  7. This is a great reminder – I have practiced this because I know how I respond to this type of compliment, but I need to do it more. It’s very similar to the practice of having everyone in a classroom/group write one thing about every other person int he group, and then they accumulate them and give each person the nice things said about them. These things have changed lives, and we all have the power to influence others in a good way.

  8. While I believe this is true, I think that people (both men and women) need to first become better with complimenting people they know. When I’m walking down the street, or working the register at my retail position, compliments on the great color that someone is wearing or their unusual brooch is all that I know of them to compliment. I get those comments regularly too, but I don’t get the same regularity of compliments from people I know.

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