“Hey, you’re on time!”
When you congratulate chronically late friends on making it on time you may think you’re rewarding good behaviour but your ‘compliment’ will likely have the opposite effect. “You’re just pointing out that lateness is their norm and calling attention to that,” says social worker Laura MacLeod. “This also can come across as condescending.”
“Your new hairstyle makes you look so much younger!”
People love getting compliments on a new look but when you add on anything extra you run the risk of pointing out that they looked worse before – in this scenario, you’re saying their old hairstyle made them look old, according to psychologist Dr Wyatt Fisher. Just stick to the compliment, there’s no need to elaborate, he adds.
“I’m so impressed that you are handling the kids so well!”
Telling your spouse you’re so impressed with how they parent in a general way can make it seem like you’re surprised they’re managing at all, Fisher says. This is especially true when it’s the primary parent (often the mum), ‘complimenting’ the other parent (often the dad). It’s fine to compliment specific things – for example, “That was great how you handled that tantrum so patiently” – but steer clear of general platitudes.