Three words have the power to change the course of a woman's entire day: “You look tired.”
This seemingly harmless, yet over-used statement isn't malicious at the surface. However, what people fail to realize is that by telling someone how they look, you're making assumptions about their morning, their day or their life in general with no context or evidence to back up your haphazard claim. In fact, the most dangerous place to drop the “you look tired” bomb is at your place of work because it has the residual effect of making the other person question their appearance, work ethic and, simply put, their worth.
“You look tired” is a problematic statement because it is completely devoid of empathy, and what parades as concern ends up being read as judgment. Concerned people don't tell others how they look. They ask what the other person needs. That's the difference. Life happens outside of the office, and believe or not, the person you're speaking to also exists outside of the realm of this brief, yet catastrophic convo; they
Life happens outside of the office, and — believe or not — the person you're speaking to also exists outside of the realm of this brief, yet catastrophic convo. They actually may be tired. You don't know. However, making a brash and superfluous comment about their looks? I can guarantee that they don't feel any less tired after fake-smiling their way through this extremely awkward situation.
I recently wrote a piece on the positive effects of leaving makeup behind that inspired a few friends to try as well. Several ladies dropped the “experiment” within the first couple of days. Why? Not because they were unhappy, but because they were simply tired of people assuming they were exhausted — typically at their places of work — because they skipped the eye makeup or concealer. I witnessed gorgeous women being knocked down a couple pegs and forced back into their comfort zones because of these three words: "You look tired." It's unfair.
Keep in mind, if a woman — or anyone for that matter — looks “tired” by your standards, telling them while you shrug your shoulders and stroll off doesn't help. If you are truly concerned about the person's well-being here are some things you can say instead:
1. “How are you feeling today?”
By asking instead of telling, you give them a chance to speak for themselves instead of imposing what you think you know.
2. “I've got a free moment. Is there anything I can help you tackle today?”
If the person is overworked and overwhelmed, this will be music to their ears.
3. “You look great today.”
Granted, it may be a white lie, but speaking positively is so valuable. You have no idea about the inner battles or struggles that they're going through.
4. “I'm going to get coffee. Do you want anything?”
This, my friends, is how progress is made. This is real empathy, free of judgment.
People push themselves to the limit all the time, and everyone has their reasons for doing so. They're aware that today, instead of spending 20 minutes perfecting their “cat-eye,” they opted to try a new meditation routine, or that they stayed up later than usual reading a new book that they simply couldn't put down. They know how they look without you telling them.
Think about the new moms, the graduate students, the entrepreneurs, the women doing their best with what they have, whether it's a 2-year-old tube of lipstick and some shimmery blue eye shadow or the finest beauty products around. Think about the women trying to give up wearing makeup for the first time, and ask yourself how you would feel if you felt your peers or co-workers were going to comment on your appearance randomly.
How would you feel if someone pointed out what you've been trying to minimize all morning? Maybe they are tired. So what? Hell, maybe they feel like Beyoncé! Unless you bring coffee, compliments or assistance, it's best to follow the golden rule: If you don't have anything nice to say, shut it.