How to precipitate a change in someone’s looks

Most people have some aspect of their appearance that they wouldn’t have chosen if it had been up to them. It might be a gap in the teeth, a mole, some extra weight. How you deal with it depends on you. Some people remain obsessed with the flaw, or perceived flaw, to the point where they feel unhappy every time they look in the mirror. Getting rid of it is the only solution they can see to this unhappiness.

Other people make their peace with these flaws. No, they wouldn’t have chosen it, but it’s just a bald patch/a wonky tooth/a few freckles. They can live with it. It’s fine.

Want to know how to make those people join the ranks of the obsessed and unhappy? Tell them that the flaw is “part of who [they] are” and an important part of their identity as it appears to you.

“That mole? It’s just you. It’s just part of who you are.”
“You wouldn’t be you without your sticky-out teeth. Don’t get them fixed!”
“You just look weird without your glasses. Not like you at all.”

People who say this kind of thing think they’re being reassuring. The general message is “It would be boring if everybody was the same! That physical flaw you’re worried about – it’s just part of life’s rich tapestry, and it helps to make you unique!” But what the other person hears is: “As far as I’m concerned, that flaw defines you.

I’m happy to have a pot belly if I’m the guy who loves coffee, knows about classic cars, makes hilarious jokes and – oh yeah, he does have a pot belly, now you come to mention it. But to hear that I am the guy with a pot belly and the pot belly “is just part of who you are” – that’s enough to send me running to the nearest Pilates class. In fact, somebody recently told me that my current hairstyle “is what I think of as you” and that was enough to get me looking critically at the hairstyle, realising how boring it is and booking a haircut.

Yes, some people revel in the differences that make them unique. But just because Ken Dodd insures his buck teeth or Christina Hendricks “celebrates her curves” on the Daily Mail’s creepy sidebar, that doesn’t mean the average person feels like that. If you really want to reassure someone you care about, tell the other person that their physical quirk is too far down the list of interesting things about them to be worth mentioning.

Explore posts in the same categories: conversational tactics, dissing the visuworld

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