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Photo: Steffan Hacker

You Look Mahvelous!

Raised in stranger-danger times, when people avoid eye contact on the street, Brendan Conron, E15, president of Tufts’ Free Compliments group, is determined to make strangers smile. Wielding handwritten cardboard signs with the words “free compliments,” he and other group members stand outside Tisch Library on the Medford/Somerville campus for an hour or two every week, offering positive commentary to each and every passerby. In November they gained national recognition when they made USA Today College’s list of “six quirky college clubs.”

“Some people believe that you can’t really give a sincere compliment if you don’t know the person,” Conron acknowledges. But you can if you learn how. The trick is to find the intriguing feature that makes each individual stand out. And he and his colleagues push themselves to go beyond obvious targets like beguiling hairstyles and snazzy boots. “We try to notice the way people carry themselves, or their attitude, so we could say things like, ‘You look determined, or intelligent, or academic,’ ” he says.

 
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