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I(f) am working as an intern in a company in Canada. In one of our social events, I complimented one of my colleague's(f) Canadian accent, I said "I like your accent, it is so cute! " I feel that I should not have said that. Is it bad to compliment people's accents? Having said that English is my second language though, I like learning about the Canadian accent. Is it bad to compliment someone's accent?

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    You've tagged this with "complaint". Did your colleague or someone else make a formal complaint or just say they didn't like it?
    – BSMP
    Jul 9 at 4:31
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I think the problem wasn't in the compliment of someone's accent, it was in the labeling it as "cute".

Cute items are generally not considered serious or important in many work places. By saying the accent is cute, it can make some people believe that they aren't to be taken seriously, because they don't sound serious.

I am sure that you've seen some time in person, or some time in the media where an adult patronizes a child, patting them on the head saying "oh, how cute!" If that's the meaning that was received (even if it wasn't he one that you meant to send) odds are you'll need to smooth things over with your coworker.

In my experience, it is much safer to talk about things in general and your preferences. "I really like your Canadian accent" is your flattering opinion, and opinions are safe because if they agree, they agree; and, if they disagree now it is you with the strange opinion.

"You are loud" is a description of the person, and is likely to cause someone to take offense. By saying it as an action "You are speaking loudly" it is no longer a description of how the person is, it is a description of how they are acting, and they will either agree with you or change their behavior.

That's why I'll never comment about a person directly at work. I'll comment about their behaviors, or their clothing, or items that they clearly have chosen (or can change). If the compliment goes well, they are happy. If the compliment fails and embarrasses them, they can wear a different shirt, not talk about the same subjects or find a lot of ways to reject the compliment without being a different person.

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  • Anyone who thought the word "cute" describing their accent means they aren't being taken seriously has problems. A more likely concern is they may think OP is flirting with them. Jul 13 at 5:12
  • @GabeSechan Just show you how it can be done (don't take it seriously), but that's a cute way to look at it. Seriously, she made is clear that she was commenting toward another female. I think the odds are more likely that it is about perception and perception of having one's power neutered by the "cute" word than flirting.
    – Edwin Buck
    Jul 13 at 21:12
  • I'm going to disagree. I don't think anyone would ever have a problem with that work in that way, when referring to something that isn't part of their job. If they do, they have serious emotional issues. I'd still bet on someone think they're flirting be an order of magnitude more of a risk than that. Then again, I get hit on by a lot of guys (I'm a guy). Jul 14 at 3:58
  • @GabeSechan With the variety of people in the world, it's never a good idea to make a sweeping statement that nobody would have a problem. It's even worse to immediately state that if they did have a problem, they have emotional issues. Apparently you can't see any scenario but the one you imagine. Cute is not a code word that guarantees flirting, unless you flirt with kittens.
    – Edwin Buck
    Jul 15 at 12:39
  • And cute isn't a word that's diminishing, unless you have issues. Anyone who has a problem with that word in that scenario is the problem. Not the person who gave them a compliment. Jul 15 at 14:56
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First, I'd like to quote an excellent comment from user "Edwin Buck" which is: "In the workplace, don't compliment people for who they are. Instead, compliment people for what they do, accomplish, or excel on the jobs."


If you feel unsure about your coworker's feeling when you use the word cute to describe her accent, then you can casually mention to that person that you are sorry about that, and you didn't mean anything a bad, inappropriate, or disrespectful, and that you just honestly want to learn about the Canadian accent because English is your second language, and it won't happen again.

I guess that your coworker will have a very positive and nice response to you when she knows that you want to say sorry (even if she didn't really have a big problem with the word cute).

As for me, I am a man, and I would not use the word cute to describe anything related to a coworker as it may cause some unexpected misunderstandings in today's workplace environment. For example, as a man, I don't want use the word cute to describe anything related to both my male and female coworkers' physical attributes (such as hair, accent, shoes, clothes, fashion, etc...)

On the other hand, between good female friends/coworkers, the rules seem more flexible and relaxing. If you and your coworker always get along very well, understand each other well, and are already kind of great/best friends, it may be OK in this scenario.

I am not saying you did anything wrong. I just want to be careful for myself.

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    My long explanation took more time to type, but you've put it in a lot less words. Most of the problem is the word "cute"; but, there is a second problem. Don't compliment people for who they are. Compliment them for what they do or choose. If you really must compliment them for who they are, it's better to phrase it as a personal opinion, so they can then reject you and your personal opinions instead of wonder how to get rid of a part of themselves.
    – Edwin Buck
    Jul 9 at 1:39
  • @Edwin Buck, You got a great point. I hope you added that to your answer. Thanks. :-) I like what you wrote "Don't compliment people for who they are. Compliment them for what they do or choose." Jul 9 at 1:43
  • I am a female and she is female. I think I was not creepy since I am a female as well. What do you think?
    – Ava123
    Jul 9 at 23:00
  • @Ava123, It was not creepy. It's cool if you two are good friends or coworkers, and do not misunderstand each other's words. Jul 9 at 23:07

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