I love a good buffer phrase. (Aka what to say when someone comments on your clothes/body/hair/makeup/etc and you’re thrown for a loop). As we move into the new year, it’s easy to envision a grand new version of yourself. Unfortunately, those “wake up as a new person” moments aren’t that common, and (outside of movies) I’ve never heard of one happening on New Year’s Day.
Becoming a new version of yourself is generally a more gentle process of tweaking and growing and changing your default patterns.
Which is where a good buffer phrase (or two) comes in.
I define a buffer phrase as “something to say, internally or externally, that creates space in a pattern or a conversation.”
A non-clothing example
An example from a non-clothing context is when you approach a receptionist who is on the phone and they use the buffer phrase “one moment please”.
“One moment please” is the phrase that creates space in the conversation with you for the receptionist to finish their conversation with the person on the phone.
That’s an example of an external buffer phrase. But internal buffer phrases are similar – they just happen in your own head.
Buffer phrases are great when you’re caught off guard
Buffer phrases are particularly helpful when someone says something about your clothes and you’re caught off guard. We don’t need buffer phrases for compliments – just say thank you. (We might need to get better at accepting compliments, but that’s another thing.)
I’m sure you’ve felt the momentary sting of a “well placed” comment. But it’s not always just a momentary sting.
“A 2010 study found that when parents or family members, particularly mothers, teased or commented on a child’s weight or diet, it led to disordered eating later on in life. Another 2016 study found that daughters whose mothers even just talked about their own diet and body dissatisfaction were more likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder. So there’s evidence to suggest that body-talk is toxic and potentially dangerous for the people on the receiving end of it.”
That quote comes from this article which particularly focuses on body and weight comments, but a surprising number of body and weight comments (especially the more “subtle” ones) can also come in the form of commenting on our clothes.
As much as we want to, we can’t always be as direct as we want to when someone comments on our clothes or our style or our bodies or any of the things they’re really talking about when we talk about clothes.
Next time you’re at a loss for what to say when someone comments on your clothes/body/hair/makeup/etc, here are some buffer phrases you can try.
3 External Buffer Phrases to Use Next Time Someone Comments on Your Clothes/Body/Makeup/Hair/etc and You Don’t Know What to Say
- Some variation on: “Because I want to / it feels good to me / I like it.” OR “Because I don’t want to / it doesn’t feel good to me / I don’t like it.” OR “I’m trying something new.”
- “I feel confused…” This one is from Havi at The Fluent Self, and she does a great job breaking down how it could work here.
- From this article at Refinery29 about body comments during the holidays: “My body isn’t up for discussion. Hard pass.”
And one more for good luck: you can always pull a non sequitur and hard U-turn the conversation. Just because someone comments doesn’t mean you have to engage.
3 Internal Buffer Phrases to Use Next Time Someone Comments on Your Clothes/Body/Makeup/Hair/etc and You Don’t Know What to Say
- “Even though X, I know Y.”
- “I want to / it feels good to me / I like it.” (Yes, many phrases work as both internal and external buffer phrases.)
- “I don’t want to / it doesn’t feel good to me / I don’t like it.”
Or even “I’m trying something new.” Internal buffer phrases create space inside your own mind so that you can redirect how you want to internalize what someone said about your clothes. For example, you can use an internal buffer phrase to help detail a mental spiral before it gets started.
If you want more on stopping a body shame spiral, check out this transcript from Day Four of 5 Days of Style.
(Don’t discount the internal. Creating internal space to upgrade your style is the foundation of 5 Days of Style.)
Changing your personal style, upgrading your wardrobe, and growing into the next version of yourself doesn’t happen overnight. But they can all happen for you.
Next time you’re stuck for what to say when someone comments on your clothes/body/hair/makeup/etc try a buffer phrase. It’ll help you change your immediate response, which is the first step to changing anything else (personal style included).