Going Deep with Jodie Layne

How to compliment someone without being a creep

Is it just you or are there a lot of really good-looking people on campus this year?

People are sporting their summer tans and freckles, there are some new students catching your eye, and you just noticed how great your lab partner actually makes that shapeless white coat look. Yes, there are some attractive folks on campus and you want to get to know them – or maybe you just think they should know that they look nice!

Fact: Street harassment is a pretty shitty thing – a prevalent and shitty thing, at that.

What’s street harassment? It’s any unwanted attention in a public place.

So, don’t be that person. Learn how to give a compliment without being a creep – it’s actually pretty easy!

1) Consider the time and place. 

If you were walking all alone or heading down the sidewalk or in an empty parkade, would you want a stranger to approach you and comment on your body/looks? Probably not.

However nice it can be to receive a compliment, it’s really not a life or death situation and there are very few circumstances in which someone is holding a gun to your head until you give out a compliment. Respect people’s sense of safety and don’t approach them if you have any doubts about them perceiving your presence as non-threatening.

2) Ask first.

Consent isn’t just for the bedroom, folks. Asking, “Is it okay if I give you a compliment?” is a good way to let someone back out of an interaction with you if they’re in a hurry, feeling threatened, or not into it. It puts them in control and no one is going to be mad that you asked. Also, if harassment can be understood as unwanted attention, asking for permission prevents you from haplessly supplying just that kind of attention.

3) Don’t be gross about it.

Compliment something that the person has control over and does not relate to their bodily contours. Some people use the “mom test”; if they would feel uncomfortable having their mom hear the compliment, it is probably not a compliment you should give a stranger.

Complimenting someone’s reading choice, outfit, tattoo, or hairstyle are all great examples of non-creepy compliments. “You look nice today,” is a classic. And none of that backhanded, psychologically manipulative compliment stuff that pickup artists advocate for like, “You’d be so pretty if you lost a few pounds.” Just, no.

4) It’s not about you, it’s about them.

A compliment shouldn’t be delivered with expectations or used as a stealthy way to force someone into a conversation. Get their permission, give the compliment with a smile, and go about your day.


You can confidentially submit a question or topic to jodie.m.w.layne@gmail.com.