Of course compliments are harmless, in fact very enchanting, and boost the recipient’s mood at the moment. But certain compliments, on the other hand, can have an opposite effect, read annoying. Take for example, what this man said to me on one Wednesday afternoon. Kigali sun is shining at its best or worse (depends) and it goes without saying that I’m tired but trying to keep my cool to do my job. I’m ready and set to interview this man who is clearly much older than me. Our relationship is purely work related, in fact we just met for the sole purpose. After taking him through what the interview is about, I ask him to confirm whether everything is clear. He replies, ‘it’s hard to focus while watching your beautiful lips as you speak, but I’m trying’. I nod and move on, not sure how to respond to such a comment. The videographer gives the green light to proceed with the interview and tells him to look at me instead of looking in the camera as we go on with the conversation. He says again, ‘what if I forget about what I have to say, distracted by her young beauty?’ Mind you I’m polite and professional. I proceed with the interview and I say thank you at the end, to which he responds again with a couple of other weird comments. Now, what did he do wrong, you would ask? I was complimented about my lips, my face, etc., so why was I annoyed, you may ask again. Who doesn’t like to hear that they find you attractive? Commenting on someone’s appearance when you don’t have a close personal relationship with them, say a co-worker, casual acquaintance, or a stranger, can leave it to conclusion that you are trying to hit on them, or that you are eyeing them for other bad intentions, hence, make them feel uncomfortable or even harassed, depending on the context. Since it is highly probable that your comment will be wrongly interpreted, it is simply safe to give compliments that you know the recipient will feel okay about before you offer them. Also, these kind of compliments are ill mannered if you look at them in a different perspective. A comment that implies a racial, gender or any other stereotype, is no longer a compliment, but now an insult. It brings to mind what someone else once told me. “You are very strong and smart, for a girl,” they said. Everything was going well, very encouraging and refreshing to hear, till they ruined it by adding, ‘for a girl’. This could be interpreted in two ways. It’s either, girls are not usually expected to be so strong and smart, hence, I should feel somehow good for beating the odds, or I’m weird for not meeting the standards of a normal girl. Either way, it’s very nauseating for lack of better words. Others go like, “You’re so articulate, for a Black person,” “You’re in such good shape, for a mom,” “You’re so smart, for someone who’s never been to college,” “you look great, for your age.” Truth is these compliments are just a subtle form of racism, sexism, or other problematic biases. Can we just drop whatever follows the “for” and just stop with “you’re so well-spoken/fit/intelligent/etc.? Another common and unwelcome compliment is, “How come you are pretty like that, yet you are single?” or however they phrase it. Basically it means how come nobody wants you when you are actually good looking, is there something else that is wrong with you since it’s not the looks apparently? And then before you know it, someone’s self-esteem is crushed. There are very many backhand compliments of the sort and examples we cannot exhaust. Even though people should try to look for the good in everything, sometimes the bad is just so flagrant. The intentions while giving the wrong-meaning compliment may be purely positive, but who knows? Nobody is going to read in your mind, so just avoid making it weird for the other person. Or one day, you will bump into someone who won’t be able to keep their cool as we often do in this profession.