Compliments on appearance – 4 reasons to think twice

by Aug 24, 2021

Compliments on appearance

Women have had to endure compliments on appearance both in-person and online. Here are 4 reasons to think twice before giving one.


Recently a LinkedIn mover and shaker (40K followers) ran a superficial poll on paying compliments on appearance on LinkedIn. Underlying this was an assumption that people want to receive comments on how they look. The sub-text was that if we want to compliment you that’s fine. It’s a nice thing to do  – deal with it. You are being difficult or anti-social if you don’t like it. That is, there is something wrong with the recipient. Women have now become responsible for male behaviour.

According to research from JUMP in 2016, 75% of women receive comments on their appearance in the workplace. In most geographies over 80% women are sexually harassed. It can frequently be a gateway behaviour to something more inappropriate.

With the growth of the Incel movement, this notion of entitlement has to be reviewed carefully.


compliments on apperance


Women and appearance

Women tread a fine line on appearance. They are judged more harshly than men and it negatively impacts their careers.  They also have to get specific things “just right” – known as the Goldilocks Dilemma, which impacts perceptions of their efficiency and competence. This applies to how attractive they are perceived to be overall and even down to how glamorous their makeup is. Beautiful women can’t be good scientists. If your make-up is moderate a woman is considered to be likeable and competent, but if it’s too extreme then her professionalism is questioned.

The tendency to focus on women’s looks and bodies instead of their ability and personality, especially when appearance shouldn’t be a factor is common. Both men and women establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way of their appearance. We don’t apply the same benchmarks to men who are evaluated by their personalities and competence. Women become aware of this as kids growing up, and even girls as young as eight have body shaming issues. This can impact their self-esteem and confidence and spill into other areas leading to mental health issues.

Worth a read: Cultural fit under the microscope – Dorothy Dalton

Research from the EU suggests that men are evaluated in interview processes on their skills, qualifications and personalities. Appearance comes much lower down the list at ninth, where appearance for women is in third place. Their qualifications come in fifth and sixth place.


4 factors to consider before paying a compliment on appearance on LinkedIn


There are four factors to consider before paying compliments on appearance on LinkedIn or anywhere really:


1. How well do you know the person?

One of the main considerations is your relationship with the individual woman. If it is a close relationship then it will probably be perfectly acceptable. But not guaranteed.

2. How will the compliment be received?

There is also the assumption is that people WANT to receive comments on their appearance.  65% of women receive inappropriate contacts on LinkedIn according to a poll run by Andy Foote. It is a major reason why some women engage less on the platform which has led to a gender networking gap. Be careful not to fall into a gender stereotype trap that women value compliments about their appearance. They don’t always.

There are also generation gaps. Older women who were raised to think this is normal are more accepting of it as we saw in the street harassment petition in France. Actresses such as Catherine Deneuve denounced the move to criminalise street harassment, as well as the whole #MeToo movement.



3. Examine your intention

The third is intention. Why would someone comment on a stranger’s appearance? What is your purpose? A comment on appearance from a complete stranger is just creepy


Download: How to make the most of LinkedIn for career and business success


4. Hidden triggers

Today with so many women acknowledging sexism and sexual abuse in their histories, none of us have any idea of another person’s history and what could trigger historical traumas. In the past women have just had to grin and bear whatever was said regardless of their feelings on the matter. If they weren’t seen to be accommodating, there were penalties to pay or a backlash.



If you really want to pay a woman a compliment on LinkedIn  – mention her content or achievements.

That is all you have to do.

Bottom line the days where women delighted in receiving comments from men they don’t know, or had to suffer in silence are long gone. I have even suggested creating a separate space for LinkedIn members who are “open to romance possibilities.”  I’ve called in LinkedIn Love!   It maybe the solution we are all looking for.


Companies wanting to strengthen their female talent pipeline contact 3Plus NOW!

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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