A caution with compliments

“I love your shirt”

“I dig those shoes”

“You have amazing eyes”

Who doesn’t like receiving a compliment?


As I sit here in my local cafe enjoying a coffee and croissant while writing a different article on my laptop, two ladies walk in and go to order up at the counter. The girl behind the pastry display greets them, she looks at one of the ladies and says “Wow, I really love your hair”, the lady replies with “Thank you, we both just had our hair done”.

The server then proceeds to take the order for their teas and muffins (yes, I was nosy and listened to what they ordered) and a look came over the other woman’s face, as if to say “Why doesn’t she love my hair?”

This got me thinking about how complimenting guests, although in most circumstances may seem to be a positive thing can also have a negative impact.

I thought back to shifts I’ve worked where I have thrown out compliments to my guests and whether when doing so if anyone else had felt “left out”. I can guarantee that I have, probably many times over.

So while sipping my coffee and crunching on my croissant I was trying to figure out some points when it came to complimenting guests, or anyone in that matter. Here’s my opinion about complimenting guests:

  • If serving a couple I believe it’s fine for girls to compliment girls and guys to compliment guys. Vice-versa is probably something to stay away from. There may be some chill couples out there that would see it as a nice gesture, but then there’s those who will think you’re hitting on their date (even if it isn’t implied, and if it is…. Naughty, naughty).
  • Group compliments are fine. Say a table of die-hard sports fans are all wearing Oakland Raiders jerseys (But only if you do love them, don’t get caught out in a lie if they ask follow up questions).
  • Complimenting elderly guests at a table where the other guests are a younger age is fine.
  • If it’s the guest of honor (birthday, anniversary, graduation etc) then congratulate away.
  • When you’re one on one with a guest (say the table is leaving) then I think it’s fine to drop a compliment to that person as long as it’s out of ear shot of the others.
  • Never compliment for the sake of trying to get a better tip.

Some things may work differently for you, but I think these points are a simple guideline you can go by.

One last note on this post is that the same goes for when your guests order food or drinks. A quick example is if a table of 4 order their meals and you say to 1, 2 or 3 of them “great choice” (or something like that) but leave someone out, then they’re going to be thinking whether their selection wasn’t as good as the other people at the table.

When I genuinely complimented someone I thought it was a win-win situation, except now I realize if there are others around who don’t receive a better or equal compliment that it can backfire on me.

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