The Ways to Compliment A Woman Without Being Creepy
The power of a good compliment can’t be overstated.
In social settings, compliments work as a subtle form of cognitive training — when we compliment the qualities and actions we like in other people, we train ourselves to focus on the good in the world around us. This also encourages positive behavior in the people we’re complimenting.
In the world of dating, compliments can be a great way to flirt, demonstrate your interest, or, if you’re already in a committed relationship, show your appreciation for your partner. In fact, according to University of Zurich researcher Christoph Korn, receiving a compliment lights up the same two neurological reward centers that light up during an orgasm.
However, there is a caveat — a bad compliment can make you come across as annoying, insensitive, or even downright creepy. How does one craft the right compliment for a lady that shows your appreciation without crossing into creep territory? Here are a few tips and tricks!
1. Be Unique
The best compliments feel tailor-made.
Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman warns that generic compliments that would apply to anyone, like “you’ve got a pleasant smile” or “your hair is pretty”, often encounter as superficial.
If you want your compliment to be well received, be authentic and speak from the heart — tell her what it is that makes her special.
A good compliment demonstrates that you’ve made an effort to get to know her.
Try to think beyond common adjectives like “pretty”, “smart”, or “nice”, and dig deeper into these descriptors.
A Quora survey on the best way to give compliments revealed that some of the most meaningful ones pinpoint things that casual observers or mere acquaintances might not notice: hobbies, personal style, hard work, attitude, etc.
If you’re complimenting a friend, coworker, or casual acquaintance, a specific compliment can be a great way to nudge the two of you into a closer relationship!
2. Be Sincere
This might seem like a no-brainer, but don’t compliment her unless you really mean everything that you’re saying.
Insincere compliments can make you seem disingenuous, or worse – like you see the compliment as an obligation.
There’s nothing worse than being complimented by someone who seems like they have an ulterior motive. When you’re halfhearted or dishonest, you run the risk of seeming as though you expect a woman’s affection in return for your flattery, which is an immediate and complete turn-off.
There’s a reason why sincere compliments are so effective (and disingenuous ones feel so slimy).
According to a 2008 study by researchers at Japan’s National Institute for Physiological Sciences, the ventral striatum, which is the part of your brain that controls decision-making in social situations, responds to compliments in exactly the same way that it responds to monetary rewards.
In other words, a genuine compliment might as well be worth its weight in gold!
3. Don’t Just Compliment Physical Appearance
This scenario is all too common: a man matches with a woman on a dating app and sends her a message complimenting her looks but receives no response. Baffled, he wonders what he could have said that made her so disinterested.
As it turns out, men highly overestimate how much women like to be complimented on their physical appearance while online dating. When surveyed on their favorite kinds of comments on dating sites, women responded that they preferred those about their personality, sense of humor, and intelligence over those about their body and appearance.
Next time, instead of telling a woman that she’s pretty, take a closer look at her profile. Is her bio witty and well-crafted? Does she seem like she has interesting hobbies? Complimenting these personality-based attributes is a much surer shot to getting that coveted message back.
According to psychologist Michele Barton, Ph.D., exclusively giving compliments about a woman’s physical appearance can “sound generic and insincere”. When you’re complimenting a woman, don’t forget to consider the aspects of her personality that you appreciate.
Is she funny? Kind? Thoughtful? Articulate? Nonphysical compliments tell a woman that you like her for who she is, not just what she looks like.
There is also scientific evidence that further emphasizes the importance of non-physical compliments. Psychologists at Southern Methodist University and Florida State University surveyed heterosexual couples for relationship satisfaction associated with positive body valuation (compliments about appearance) and positive valuation of non-physical qualities (compliments about personality).
Surprisingly, they found that women actually formed negative associations with male partners who valued their bodies but did not demonstrate a positive valuation of their non-physical qualities.
In other words, complimenting a woman’s appearance without also complimenting her personality can actually lead her to dislike you.
The Ways to Compliment A Woman Without Being Creepy
Finally, cookie-cutter physical compliments like “you are beautiful” can even have a negative impact on a woman’s self-esteem. It’s no secret that many women struggle with their body image — constantly bombarded with Photoshopped Instagram models, Victoria’s Secret Angels, and movie stars can do serious damage to a woman’s self-worth.
Although telling a woman that she’s beautiful might seem like a great way to bolster her self-esteem, in practice, it’s actually not that helpful. A 2009 study from the Association for Psychological Science indicates that affirmations such as “you are attractive” or “you are beautiful” can hurt people with low self- esteem.
These kinds of general affirmations can cause some women to mentally spiral, drawing their attention to all of the things they don’t like about their appearance, instead of having the intended effect.
Unless you know a woman really well, you likely don’t know the state of her body image and self-worth. In that case, it’s safer to steer clear of basic physical compliments.
4. Don’t Be Too Literal
According to a 2017 study by researchers at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, women are more likely to respond positively to metaphorical compliments than to literal ones.
For example, Poetic, eloquent comments like “Your eyes are a gorgeous rainbow” sound much more sincere and thoughtful than a basic, literal compliment like “You have sexy eyes.”
Getting creative with your praise can actually make you seem more attractive!
Researchers at the University of Nottingham reported that vocabulary use is actually one of the ways that humans select potential mates. Generally speaking, the size of your vocabulary correlates strongly with your intelligence level — the smarter you are, the more words you know in your native language.
Putting all those vocabulary words into practice in your compliments can subtly demonstrate that you’re intelligent, educated, and eloquent!
5. Beware of Backhanded Compliments
Even if your intentions are good, subtle nuances in the way that you phrase a compliment can mean the difference between coming across as a kind, genuine guy and coming across as a condescending jerk.
In a 2019 Quora survey, women were asked about the most misguided compliments they’ve ever received.
The responses were shocking. One woman was told she was pretty for a black girl, another was told: “You’re pretty, so you don’t need to know math.” These kinds of “compliments” are not compliments at all and come across as incredibly insulting.
Here’s an easy tip to help you avoid accidentally doling out a backhanded compliment: never add a qualifier to your compliment.
If you think a woman is beautiful, just say that she’s beautiful — no need to say that she’s pretty for her race or her size, or that she’s too good-looking for her chosen career path or field of study.
6. Context is Key
If you’re thinking about striking up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in a public place, be very careful about how and when you approach her.
Or if a woman is walking or sitting alone, or is wearing headphones, your approach might seem invasive or startling. If it’s nighttime, your approach might even inadvertently seem threatening.
Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood said it best: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them”. This quote might seem melodramatic, but it is founded on truth.
Approach a lady in an appropriate setting, or when she’s already expressed interest in talking to you.
To many women, being approached by a strange man in public, even if he’s saying something nice, can be a frightening experience. From a very early age, many women are trained to learn tricks to stay safe while walking alone, especially at night.
Being approached by a stranger while alone is a huge red flag for many women, and the last thing you want to do when trying to compliment someone is accidentally scare them.
The likelihood of your compliment being received well increases exponentially if you’re already friends or acquaintances with the woman in question. Otherwise, you run the risk of seeming creepy, even if that’s not your intention at all.
7. Catcalls are NOT Compliments
Over the past couple of years, many women’s rights groups have started viral campaigns that demonstrate just how demeaning and uncomfortable catcalling is.
Noa Jansma, a student from the Netherlands who runs the viral Instagram account @dearcatcallers, takes selfies with every man who shouts at her on the street, declares that being catcalled is “not a compliment”, and she’s absolutely right.
Catcalling can make women feel objectified and unsafe.
Although there is currently limited scientific research on catcalling and street harassment, a 1989 study published in the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality notes that men tend to respond positively to sexualized compliments or solicitations of casual sex from women.
However, women react extremely negatively to the same kinds of comments and solicitations from men. Even if you think you wouldn’t mind being catcalled, odds are that women would beg to differ.
Whistling, shouting, honking, or commenting on the physical appearances of women on the street are all completely inappropriate behavior.
You might think you’re being kind, but to the woman you’re shouting at, your words feel like harassment.
Sometimes, complimenting women can feel like an absolute minefield.
Dodging sensitive subjects, avoiding creepiness, and sounding sincere all at the same time can be tricky.
If you feel like your attempts at complimenting women always fall flat, these tips can help you bounce back and start showcasing thoughtful admiration that catches women’s attention.
Above all else, remember to speak from the heart. It sounds cheesy, but the best compliments are the ones that are meant sincerely. Learning to express them is the easiest way to turn an acquaintanceship to a friendship, and maybe even to something more!