Most people like to hear kind words about themselves, but sometimes "compliments" given to women can border on sexual harassment or contain ulterior motives. It can be hard to know how to respond to unwanted compliments because when the complimenter's malintent is covert, it's easy for them to paint you as the bad guy.
So, one Redditor asked the feminism subreddit, "What are some responses that recognise that complimenting appearances sometimes is just unnecessary?" She explained:
I along with plenty of other individuals that I know get complimented now and again, "you are so pretty!" etc. It's not that I don't appreciate it, but I feel as though it's not real (usually given in a semi-intoxicated state or just a blatant stab in the dark to see if I want to play the flirting game), and quite frankly I'm tired of playing these gender socially prescribed roles of "man compliments girl, girl is supposed to act shy or give one back."
Remember, if something feels threatening or pressuring, it probably is, no matter how much the speaker tries to pass it off as a genuine act of kindness. There's nothing hostile or aggressive about defending your boundaries. So, here are some ways to deal with inappropriate compliments that can border on harassment and make you uncomfortable.
I credit this one to the brilliant Jenna Marbles: Put the most ambiguous but horrifying expression you can muster on your face, then just stand there and don't do or say anything. Jenna Marbles swears it works 100 percent of the time, but if it doesn't, she recommends spontaneously planking or pretending to be a velociraptor. Hey, even if these don't end up being effective, you'll get a few laughs out of them.
2. Ignore Them
Especially if a complete stranger is making remarks about your appearance while you're trying to go about your business, you don't owe them any response at all. If you're walking down the street, keep walking. If you're doing your laundry, keep emptying it into the drier. Unfortunately, there's a chance the other person will shout some slur or another at you, but then they'll probably give up and leave you alone.
3. Say "I Know"
Some people try to compliment women because they believe women are in need of a self-esteem lift and will give someone their attention just for offering that boost. One way to shut these insincere complimenters down is to show them you actually don't need anyone else's help to feel good about yourself. "I've found the easiest way to kill it is to give them a nonchalant 'I know' as a response and move on," wrote Redditor PrudishSlut, a teacher who receives appearance-related compliments from her students. "Because yeah, I'm cute, and yeah, I know, but it's got nothing to do with calculus."
4. Change The Subject
If a coworker, a stranger, or anyone is making inappropriate comments about your looks and you're scared to be confrontational, you can always change the subject. The new subject can flow from the original compliment or be a complete non-sequitur. For instance, if someone says you look cute in your dress, you could transition to talking about how it's an old dress and you haven't bought new clothes in a while because you're saving up for an upcoming trip to India. Or you could just say, "Thanks. Do you know of a good place to get sushi around here?" It might not shut your complimenter down for good, but it'll steer the conversation elsewhere in the meantime.
5. Address The Elephant In The Room
Sometimes it's clear when someone's appearance-related compliments are an attempt to date you or hook up with you. At that point, it helps both them and you to let them know you're not interested. You could try, "Thanks, but maybe you should know I just see you as a friend." Or, if you're not really friends, "Hey, I appreciate that, but I don't see us that way" is another cordial way to get that point across.
6. Turn It Around On Them
Sarcastically "complimenting" someone the way they're "complimenting" you both makes them aware of what they're really doing and quelches any desire they had to ingratiate you. "If you call any... ego-centric male 'pretty' when he's trying so blatantly to make a move... he's not going to be into you at that point," observed Redditor i_hate_tarantulas, who likes to say, "Oh no, YOU'RE pretty. Do guys hit on you a lot?"
7. Throw Them Off Guard
One effective way to get anyone to leave you alone is to hit them with a comment so random and unexpected that they're the ones unsure how to respond. Redditor EnthalpicSeahorse suggests that women who want to troll people who tell them to smile can say something back that describes exactly why they're not smiling, like, "My dad has terminal cancer." At the very least, that person will be tongue-tied for long enough for you to make your exit.