Monday, 16 April 2012

Compliment slips

Supposedly many men are nervous about paying compliments to a woman because the intended compliment easily gets misconstrued as something negative.

"Curvy" is taken as "fat". "Figure-hugging" is taken as "too tight". "Great make-up" is read as "too much". And so on.

Not only that but most women aren't actually very keen on compliments anyway, or so this survey says. It doesn't explain why.

The reason, from my own past experience, is that women often regard compliments with suspicion. They think you're simply flattering them, or trying to seduce them, or trying to get something out of them. The idea that you're genuinely admiring them, with no ulterior motive, is hard to swallow.

But apparently some compliments are more credible than others. If you say a woman looks thinner, or looks utterly gorgeous, or her dress is stunning, or her hair is fabulous, she's more likely to believe you and bury the doubts. All a bit of a minefield for the well-meaning bloke just trying to say "Hey, you're looking good".

I suppose women's scepticism isn't as strange as it might seem, given that often men DO have an ulterior motive when they pay a compliment. Yes, they frequently do want her to cook the dinner, or organise the conference - or go to bed with him.

To be fair though, the survey should also have asked women if their intended compliments to men are equally misconstrued. Don't men also wonder about the hidden agenda? Or are they so narcissistic, they just lap up the compliments and let their heads swell?

Personally, the only compliments I get are usually of the "You're so thin" or "You look so young" variety. Which happen to be true. I never get compliments on my clothes, mainly because they're bog-standard male clothing. And I'm never complimented on my make-up. I must be using the wrong shade of lipstick.

31 comments:

Wisewebwoman said...

If you're fishing Nick, I find you sensitive, extraordinarly insightful and well informed. And if you're rumpled, that's a good thing.
And no, you don' have to pay me at all.
And in meat world I think we would be friends. With no hidden agenda.
XO
WWW

Bijoux said...

I think the key is your relationship to the person you are complimenting. If a male stranger compliments me, I'm going to automatically be creeped out or at least suspicious if the compliment is on my appearance. If it's someone I know, I generally accept compliments without thinking there is a hidden agenda.

Jenny Woolf said...

Yes, I agree with Bijoux. It's all about the relationship, in other words.... scch a womanish thing to say but true.

Macy said...

I can take a compliment if I agree with it. So I'm happy to be asked if I've lost weight on a "thin day", or to be told I'm looking good on a day when I think so too.
When I don't agree, that's when I suspect something...

Nick said...

www - Hmmm, I'm suspicious, what are you trying to get out of me? No seriously, thanks, I do try to be all those things. Except rumpled, which happens despite my best efforts....

Bijoux - I hadn't thought of that, but yes, the relationship is important. Oh dear, I've complimented some of the admin staff at work on their clothes even when they hardly knew me....

Nick said...

Jenny - Well, I guess it makes sense that the better you know someone the more likely you are to accept their compliments at face value.

Macy - That makes sense too. If a compliment totally doesn't fit with your own self-image, you wonder why. Either they're seeing you through rose-tinted spectacles - or they're buttering you up.

Grannymar said...

Nick, if I was to shower you with compliments, you would run a mile and wonder what this ould widow woman was after. Right?

Now when are meeting for that coffee? :lol:

nursemyra said...

I don't think the application of make up should be remarked upon or complimented. It's supposed to enhance natural beauty, not be so noticeable that cheeks look like blushing apples or eyelids like sparkling jewels

Baino said...

Let's face it, at my age, I'll take al the compliments I can get. At least you never have to ask, "Does my bum look big in this?"

Nick said...

Grannymar - Certainly if I got a shower of compliments, rather than the odd one or two, I would wonder what your game was.

Ooh, I'm playing hard to get again. I must sort out a convenient date and get in touch.

Myra - That's true, make-up in general shouldn't be too conspicuous. Though I see nothing wrong with some emphatic eye-shadow or a vivid lipstick.

Nick said...

Baino - I could shower you with compliments, but as Grannymar says, would you believe them? Your bum's just fine, by the way....

John Gray said...

My grandmother once said to a very ugly lady
"Your hair looks lovely from behind"
it took an age to realise just how bitchy that comment was

Nick said...

John - A very strange compliment! Glad to say no one's ever praised the back of my ears. Or the back of my neck.

Suburbia said...

I think it's nice to receive and give complements as long as they are genuine and I think you can tell when they are not?

By the way Nick, I think you should try the red lipstick, red suits everyone don'tchaknow?!

Nick said...

Suburbia - I suppose you can usually tell if a compliment is genuine, but not always. We're all good at pretending to be sincere.

You'd recommend red? But a pale red or a scorching red? It's so hard to decide....

Rummuser said...

In India, among some at least, losing weight is an alarming development. I have to handle both the compliments I get for losing weight and fend off advise to regain it. You are lucky! And that is a compliment.

Nick said...

I often read that in certain countries, such as India, being plump is more desirable than being thin because it implies affluence and privilege. But is it true?

Los Angelista said...

We should send a tube of MAC Viva Glam to you so you can adjust the lipstick issues. It always looks good on everyone.

What's tough with compliments is that when you tell someone, hey, you look great, they might take it as meaning that they don't look so good all the rest of the time. So yeah, I guess I've learned to never comment on people's appearance.

Nick said...

Liz - Is that what I need? But will it help me with those tricky in-between shades?

I hadn't thought of the "doesn't look so good at other times" angle. But really, you gels, you turn a positive into a negative so easily....

Cheerful Monk said...

I like the Australian compliment: "You scrub up nicely." ;)

Secret Agent Woman said...

No man who is not already intimately involved with a woman should compliment a woman's body in anyway. Period. There's no way that is going to be construed as anything but creepy. All you can say are things like, "Great dress" or "You look fantastic" or other non-body-specific things.

In contrast, if you are intimately involved with the woman, you can make as specific a compliment as you like. One of my favorites to date: "No disrespect to your other parts, which are great, but you have an amazing ass." Funny and complimentary.

Nick said...

Agent - Any remark about a woman's body is bound to be seen as a possible sexual come-on, so as you say definitely a no-no. I love the comment on your ass!

Nick said...

Monk - Oops, almost missed you there! Yes, I like that one too. It's similar to the Italian phrase "acqua e sapone" (water and soap) which means a well-scrubbed look.

Rummuser said...

Yes it is in some quarters but it is rapidly changing. It is also a matter of taste; for instance I like buxom beauties rather than Twiggy clones!

Nick said...

Ramana - Glad to hear this tradition is changing. So you like something to grab hold of rather than something that might do you an injury?

Scarlet Blue said...

I'm appalling with compliments, they embarrass me, and when I'm embarrassed I become clumsy... hence if someone says I look nice, I will automatically trip over... or drop my dinner down my top.
I warned my driving instructor NEVER to tell me when I had driven well. Sadly, he took no heed of this advice... but he never again paid me a compliment on the finesse of my clutch control.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - Did I ever tell you how drop-dead gorgeous you are? Oh sorry, I didn't mean you to trip on the rug and smash the window....

My driving instructor was always telling me I was too thin and needed to gain weight.

speccy said...

My grandmother was great* for the compliments... when she told you you were looking well, that's when you knew you'd put on weight. She never liked my contact lenses or attempts to tame my frizzy hair 'oh, but you're lovely with your natural curls and your glasses'. So I'd have spent a fortune and be thinking I was lovely, and then I'd be disillusioned pretty quick!

*not

Nick said...

Speccy - My father was like that. He could never appreciate me as I actually was, he always wanted me to be someone else, namely the perfect son as imagined by him.

blackwatertown said...

I find that just saying "You look great" and then growling is always appreciated. Though my Mum does sigh every time.

Nick said...

Blackwater - I wouldn't have thought growling would go down too well.