10

I have a colleague who has recently dyed his hair to be darker and not quite as light and gray. I think it looks really good and I would like to comment on it, but I am not quite sure how to approach it. If I say "Hey, your hair color looks great!", it brings attention to the fact that I was aware of what his hair looked like and that I noticed how drastic of a change it is. Perhaps he thought it was just a very subtle touch up and it would not be a big change, but now his colleagues are aware that he dyes his hair.

How can I comment on a coworker's change to their appearance (whether it is teeth whitening, hair coloring, tanning, etc.) while being sensitive to whether or not they meant it to be a drastic change or just a very minor change that only they would notice?

  • 11
    It is better not to do so. – Captain Emacs Jul 20 '17 at 1:53
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    "Did you get your hair done? Looks nice." – cheshire Jul 20 '17 at 1:54
5

It depends how close you are with that colleague. At the end of the day what you are saying is meant to be a compliment. Also your comment will not be a life changing event to your life or the life of your colleague, So take it easy and cool!

14

Obviously Captain Emacs has the safest advice, which is not to comment on other people's physical appearance at all.

But if you do want to compliment someone, you should:

  • Be non-specific
    For example, "I like your hair". You can say it looks nice without pointing out you know exactly what was done or that the change was dramatic.

  • Keep it short

  • Do it infrequently
    For example, "That scarf is nice" is fine but not if you say it every single day.

  • Avoid anything but the most superficial parts: things that are wholly cosmetic, on the surface, and don't have unfortunate implications.
    For example, I wouldn't comment on someone's teeth at all as it's hard to disassociate that from hygiene. Another obvious one to avoid is someone's weight; it won't go over well to compliment someone's weight loss if it turns out they're sick.

The very safest thing to say, other than nothing, is "You look nice today".


To address the comments: The OP is worried about causing mild offense, embarrassment, or self-consciousness. Nothing in the original question or either answer implies that this is about not being seen as a pervert. This was not a concern of the OP and not something addressed in this answer.

  • I'd consider saying "You look especially nice today" to avoid the implication that they normally don't look nice. In general though, I'm with Pieter B: I'm happy to be able to comment on the physical attributes of my coworkers without risk of immediately being seen as a pervert who keeps a close watch on everyone. – Cronax Jul 20 '17 at 14:57
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    I think you've missed the point @PieterB. The OP isn't concerned about looking like a predator - but instead is concerned about possibly drawing attention to something that would make the person feel uncomfortable for other reasons. – thebluefox Jul 20 '17 at 15:52
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    @PieterB Nobody said anything about being labeled a predator. OP just wanted to avoid embarrassing their colleague, since people can be insecure about their appearance and might not want someone drawing attention to a "fix". That's all we're talking about here. – user812786 Jul 20 '17 at 16:07
3

There's absolutely nothing wrong with a discreet compliment. This way, it doesn't bring overt attention and cause a conversation - potentially unwanted - among the rest of the staff seated near you.

Frankly, it is nothing unusual for people to show up on Monday mornings with different hairstyles, hair color, wigs, extensions, and even bodily augmentations and alterations these days. They're not fooling anyone who notices. So don't think your desire to pay a compliment is all that unusual, because unfortunately sometimes people are actually "fishing" for them :) Like I stated above, proceed with discretion.

1

You shouldn't comment at all on anyone's appearance, unless you're close enough to them to know that you won't be offending, distracting, embarrassing, demeaning, objectifying, harrassing, concerning, or in any other way harming them. Compliments are great only if people receive them as compliments: if you have any doubt of this, then absolutely err on the side of not commenting. This goes for any public space whatosever, but is especially important in the workplace, where employees are not there because they want to be there, and where problems like bigotry and abuse are rampant across the world. Context is all-important here.

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