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“Hey, you’re on time!”

“Hey, you’re on time!”
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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!”

“Your new hairstyle makes you look so much younger!”
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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.

Don’t miss these hairstyle mistakes that age your face.

“I’m so impressed that you are handling the kids so well!”

“I’m so impressed that you are handling the kids so well!”
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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.

Find out how to deal with annoying kids here.

“You are such a strong person!”

“You are such a strong person!”
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When someone is going through something tough we want to express our support and our confidence in their ability to handle it. Unfortunately saying this just calls attention to the fact that their life really stinks right now without adding anything helpful, says health and wellness expert Caleb Backe. Moreover, sometimes people don’t want to be ‘strong’ or they don’t feel like they can handle their challenges and this comment can make them feel even less adequate because they’re not doing what they’re ‘supposed’ to do.

“You’re a really good driver… for a woman!”

“You’re a really good driver… for a woman!”
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This ‘compliment’ has many nauseating variations and is often used as a subtle form of racism, sexism, or other problematic biases, says social worker and relationship therapist Irinia Baechle. “You’re so articulate…for a black person.” “You’re in such good shape…for a mum.” “You’re so smart…for someone who’s never been to college.” You never need whatever follows the ‘for’; just stop with “You’re so well-spoken/fit/intelligent/etc.”

Do you know what can happen to your car when you don’t drive it? Find out here.

“You did a fantastic job handling that project on your own!”

“You did a fantastic job handling that project on your own!”
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You may be trying to give someone their hard-earned credit but this can also be a backhanded way of saying they’re not a team player. In addition, this is only considered a compliment at all for people living in societies that put a high importance on the individual. For someone that is from a culture that values group or family success over individual achievement, this may not only feel insulting but also humiliating, explains author and executive coach Jason Sackett.

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“You’re so gorgeous!”

“You’re so gorgeous!”
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Who doesn’t like to hear that you find them attractive? A lot of people, it turns out. Commenting on someone’s appearance when you don’t have a close personal relationship with them – like a co-worker, casual acquaintance, or a stranger – can make them feel uncomfortable or even harassed, depending on the context, Sackett says. Plus, it’s kind of a lazy compliment. “The most powerful (and safest) compliments are those that you know the recipient will feel connected to before you offer it,” he adds.

“Great job getting that A! You’re so smart!”

“Great job getting that A! You’re so smart!”
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Complimenting your child for doing something well is parenting 101, right? Turns out, complimenting their achievements can seriously backfire, making them think that’s all you care about, says family therapist, Amy McManus. “It’s more important to compliment your children on the actions that reflect your family’s values, like persistence in the face of discouragement, helping others, or working hard towards a goal.”

Help your kids deal with exam stress by following these useful tips.

“I’m so proud of you for getting a raise this year darling!”

“I’m so proud of you for getting a raise this year darling!”
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Just like complimenting kids only for their straight-A report card or soccer goal makes them believe that is what you value in them, complimenting your partner only on their achievements can make them feel more like a pay-check than a person, McManus says. “Plus, they may or may not feel they earned it, or are remembering when they didn’t get it before, and a compliment can stir up complicated feelings like guilt or embarrassment,” she adds.

“You look great for your age!”

“You look great for your age!”
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When you tell someone they look great for their age, the subtext is they don’t look pretty or handsome in general, just in comparison to wizened crones. Instead of subtly insulting their looks, just leave off the qualifier – ‘for your age’ – and tell them they look great, says author of The Unconditional Truth. Besides, age is beautiful.

Don’t miss these age-defying foods everyone over 50 should probably be eating.

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