As women we are often far kinder to our friends than we are to ourselves. We can spend hours criticizing our never-ending list of “flaws.” My hair is frizzy, my nose is crooked, my thighs look huge. We could go on all day, but when it comes to our friends… “You look gorgeous!”, “I love that top on you.”, “God what I would give for your legs.”
Nothing but praise. We do this for two reasons. We genuinely mean it because we have a tendency to see the best in those we love or we are just trying to be nice.
But what happens when it’s dead obvious that your friend is making a serious fashion faux pas? It’s the worst shade of orange, a god awful pattern or yes in fact, those pants do make her look fat. Is it your duty to speak up? Yes. If you’re a real friend you have to say something. But how?
It can be super awkward, unless you’re sisters from another mister. Then by all means… feel free to be direct. “You look like a beached whale, burn those pants immediately.” However, in most cases, even when you’re close, you’ll want to take a gentler, kinder approach.
First give a compliment before the critique.
You want to start off by telling her what looks good. “That color is perfect on you, but I’m not really loving the shape.” OR “You look so good in hats, but maybe this one doesn’t go with the dress.”
Or disguise the critique as a compliment.
“You’re so thin, I think the pattern may be too bold on you.” OR “Your legs are gorgeous, you definitely have to show them off. Maybe something shorter…”
Criticize the clothing, not her.
Never criticize what can’t be changed. You want to make it about what she’s wearing not about her body. “That designer always makes his cuts so narrow.” OR “I wish the skirt was a little bit longer, they make everything so short these days.”
Suggest an alternative.
An easy out is suggesting an alternative option. Not only are you saving her from leaving the house looking like a trainwreck but you’re offering real help by picking out something that will look better. “I like this but I really liked the blouse you had on first.” OR “This is very pretty, but remember that black dress you wore to Kathryn’s party, do you have that? You looked so elegant in it.”
The more positive and light you can keep the conversation the better. You always want to accentuate the good and minimize or divert attention from the bad. Now if chance has it that you’re already out and about, then it’s too late to say anything. It’s best to zip your lips. If nothing can be done then even a well-intentioned critique will only cause a drop in self-esteem.
HOMEWORK: Have you ever been in a situation where you had to criticize a friend but didn’t know how? What did you do? Please share in the comments below!