Telling Someone They Need a Change in Style

Telling someone they need to change their style is almost always tough. No one likes to hear that they don’t look good, and being told so can put someone on the defensive.  That’s never a good thing.  But sometimes, people need to be told they have to make a change, and going about it the right way can help make a big difference.

Talk In Private

If you are going to put someone on the spot regarding their style, don’t do it in front of a group of people. That’s just asking for them to get upset and defensive. Instead, talk with them in private. It’s more intimate and they won’t feel like they are getting ganged up on or embarresed in front of others. They’ll be more relaxed, and therefore more apt to listen to what you are telling them, and maybe even open to change.

The Critique Sandwich

This is something used in the creative world often. What it is, is something positive you see about something (or in this case, a person’s style), something negative, and then something positive again.  Putting the negative in between two positive things lightens the blow a little, and makes it easier to stomach.

Here are a couple examples of style-related critique sandwiches.

Becky, I love how creative you are with your style–you always have the most beautiful jewelry.  I’d love to see more bigger tops on you, I feel like the ones you wear often are always so tight, it distracts from your amazing shoe collection.

I’ve always been envious of your hair, Jane.  It’s always so shiny and neat.  Have you thought about wearing jeans less, and trying dresses out every so often?  You’ve got great legs!

You have such amazing skin!  It’s so clear.  You should try pulling your hair out of your face every so often, show it off a little.  I bet it would make your eyes pop too, they’re such a pretty shape.

See how that works? The negative thing is surrounded by complements, but obvious at the same time.  It’s not a back-handed complement, nor is it a bitchy comment meant to hurt.  The negative comments are worded in such a way that they’re helpful bits of advice, which also helps lessen the sting.

Don’t Be A Bitch

Don’t be mean just for the sake of being mean. It’s unnecessary and totally hurtful.  You can tell someone their style needs to change without hurting their feelings, even if you don’t use the critique sandwich.

For example, saying, “that shirt is hideous!  Did a Smurf throw up on you?  What the hell were you thinking when you bought that ugly thing?” is rude and the wrong way to go about things.  Instead, saying something like, “I love the color blue on you, but that cut doesn’t really flatter you” is a little more gentle and easier to stomach.

This also means you should avoid being passive-aggressive and giving back-handed complements (you know, the complement that’s actually an insult). That kind of stuff is unpleasant and completely unnecessary.

So when you talk to someone about their style, and the need to make changes, keep both their feelings and your tone in mind. Before you say anything, think about whether-or-not you’d like to hear the same.

Offer To Help

Instead of just telling a person they need a change in style, offer to help them make the change. Offer to go shopping with them, or go through their closet and get rid of stuff. Be more than just the person that tells them they need a change; be the friend who supports them and helps them get where they need to be

Don’t Push It

If someone isn’t ready to change, they won’t, no matter how many times you talk to them. Pushing them too much may actually make them resist changing. So don’t bug them every day or every time you talk to them. Talk about other stuff too. Heck, even offer an honest complement about something style-related. It shows them you weren’t just looking to hurt their feelings, but also that they can make good style choices on their own.

It’s Not Easy

Telling someone they need a change in style is hard. It’s no cakewalk to tell someone they have bad taste in clothes or shoes. It can result in hurt feelings and strained frienshipds, but if you go about it the right way, you can limit that. Have you ever had to have the talk with someone about their style? Have you ever been on the receiving end?

Believe it or not, I’ve been on the receiving end of the talk. Not easy, but so worth it!

9 comments for “Telling Someone They Need a Change in Style

  1. July 28, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    I was looking forward to this post and it is as great as I expected, maybe even better! I have never been in such situation, neither was I ever told or I had need to tell someone.
    I guess I think everyone has right to have style of their own, no matter if we like it or not. Not like we are going to like everyones style but that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends with them. Of course, a friendly ask to go shopping together and help each other choose stuff is always great. 🙂

  2. July 28, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    Thanks! I have struggled with this before both as having been talked to and feeling like I need to talk to someone. While I agree we all have our own style, when what we are wearing isn’t flattering or isn’t age appropriate, sometimes it’s a necessary talk. You can still express yourself in terms of style without looking bad!

  3. July 28, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    This was a great article. It makes sense to compliment someone before hitting them with the criticism. That’s definitely better than just giving it to them straight. It’s also nice that there’s a little if-you-read-between-the-lines-I-also-think-you-are-not-bright-enough-to-see-through-my-veiled-criticisms. Thank goodness for best friends who can be frank – it’s like a band-aid, it stings for a second when you just rip it right off, but it’s better than slowly peeling it off one tiny millimeter at a time….

    And, case in point, has anyone seen the RHNY this season? Where Heather keeps trying (very poorly) to let LuAnn know why the other ladies were displeased with her in London?? Heather is trying to use a system similar to the one above, where she tries to tie it all up in a neat little bow. And LuAnn is completely oblivious; all LuAnn hears is what the other people did wrong.

    Anyway, I think these things are best left to a very good friend, one a person can trust. I can take it from my sister, I can take it from my friend Anna, but anyone else…….I probably don’t have enough respect to feel their opinion is valid.

    One last thing (I promise): Style is personal. Not everyone has the same taste, which is why we all have our own (usually) unique style. Be careful that when you criticize others, you aren’t just trying to push your style on them or what you think their style should be. If a person is comfortable in jeans all the time, no need to encourage them to feel uncomfortable in a skirt – even if they have great legs. It’s far better to compliment the heck out of them when you see them wearing something great, or something different (in a good way.) Don’t we tend to wear the shirt we always get the most compliments on?

    p.s. sorry you had to have a tough experience, and I’m glad you feel it was worth it!

  4. July 30, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    Yes, JUST like a Bandaid! Good analogy, Erin 🙂

    I don’t watch any of the Real Housewives series… but I think when you’re pointing out someone’s flaws or misdoings you can’t do so by pointing out things other people have done wrong. It has to be focused on that individual… otherwise, that’s what happens; they just see what the others have done wrong and don’t look at themselves.

    I’d take criticism from anyone… but you do have to consider the source. I was spoken to by my boss once. I took his comments to heart and immediately changed my style–I’d gotten too comfortable in my casual office and was dressing like it. Was it an embarrassing situation? You betcha! But it needed to be done, and I’m glad it was. Meanwhile, my grandma used to always tell me my shoes were too crazy… I usually laughed with her about it and that was it. I wasn’t going to start wearing shoes that were her style (taupe, flat, and velco), because why should I? They weren’t my style, they were hers.

    Which leads me into your last point. You are 100% right, and I should have noted that when giving advice you shouldn’t be pushing your own style on someone. Thanks for pointing that out, and I like the idea of complementing someone more on something they’re doing right.

  5. Christin
    August 2, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    Great post! I know someone who looks like they got dressed in the dark in a box of clothes that fit them about 30 lbs ago who loooves telling people they have terrible style. I hope someone reads this post and shares both sides of it with her!!

  6. August 3, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    I think we all know people like that. And I think we’ve all made some mistakes before too… I know I have LOL

  7. Kelly Abrams
    November 28, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    We have these family friends and the mom and the 10 or 11 year old daughter have serious fashion issues! They are really nice and talented people and they’re home and style at formal events is beautiful, but just everyday clothing… Ooh it’s bad. The little girl is in middle school now so, whereas it didn’t really matter before, it really does now. I really don’t want her to be made fun of or suffer any bullying! How do you think I should handle this situation? She doesn’t just need a few articles of clothing but an entirely new wardrobe… A few items wouldn’t be a bad place to start I guess though… Any suggestions?

  8. November 29, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    You could try talking to the girl and see how she feels about her clothes, or maybe take her shopping for Christmas or her birthday if you already exchange gifts then. That way you could see if the style is hers or her mom’s. and if its hers, you’ll have to let her be. She may be comfortable with it or have friends who have similar style. If she’s not comfortable with the style you’ll probably be best off talking to her parents about letting her choose her own clothes so she can be more confident and comfortable with herself and her style.

  9. Kelly Abrams
    November 29, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Ok, I will try this! Thank you!

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