The Look

Easy on the cat calls, sir. Flattery won’t take you too far with her.

One big misconception guys have about girls is that we thrive on flattery, and an assumption common among girls is that guys compliment us primarily to butter us up.  The truth is, however, that both parties are misreading each other to some degree.

After receiving a compliment I felt a guy gave because he felt he was obligated to, I investigated the ways and the reasons that guys give the girls they’re pursuing compliments. I asked 10 men of varying ages and relationship statuses about their complimenting tendencies, and I questioned 10 women to assess their take on receiving compliments.  All in all, we’ve come up with some pretty basic and helpful guidelines for giving and taking compliments and for pinpointing empty flattery. 

The dilemma:

Any girl who’s been out to the clubs and gotten the beautiful eyes, amazing body, or gorgeous smile line has become a bit wary of empty flattery doled out for ulterior motives.  When similar situations come up in deeper relationships,  it sets off a sort of red flag.  As in, this compliment was handed out by a player attempting to manipulate me; this same compliment was by handed to me from a guy I am in a relationship with. Therefore, by the transitive rule of flattery, the guy I’m in a relationship is trying to manipulate me.  It’s a bit twisted, but a lot of women feel this way.

What the ladies say:

Women interviewed by in large felt that disingenuous compliments significantly out numbered genuine ones. One woman gave the percentage at 80-90% of compliments as disingenuous, and another described genuine compliments as “few and far between.”  A different woman said she felt like genuine compliments didn’t really come from men who were pursuing her, but from friends.

The compliments they described as seeming like empty flattery are almost always the ones which were focused on physical traits or sexual references. They seem like a “trying to get in your pants kind of thing.”  When defining disingenuous compliments one girl gave examples, “You have a great smile, you have beautiful eyes. Just real basic comments that don’t really tell you much.” Other undesirable compliments were described by their delivery.  “This one guy seemed into me but talked so fast I could barely understand him, and compliments would hit me after he said them. He would mutter them and quickly move on to his next thought. Like, he didn’t give me time to take it in. It didn’t feel real. It felt like he was rushing through a spiel to get me where he wanted me.”

"...That's maybe the best compliment of my life..."

Well done sir! “That’s maybe the best compliment of my life.”

What works, the compliments that hit home, are the ones that include specificity.  The best compliments for one woman I interviewed are the one’s that note how kind and good-hearted she is and “the little things.” She elaborated, “Like, if he compliments me on the way I do something or say something, I know he’s really paying attention and enjoying every little thing I’m doing.”  One girl thinks the best compliments are the ones when he notices little changes that most people wouldn’t. Details are key.

Another girl remembered a compliment that brought her to tears.  She is a photographer and massage therapist and he told her how much he admired what she could do with her hands, and what a gift she has for using them to help people.  “He sounded so genuine,” she said trying to describe how it made her feel, “like it really meant something to him to say this.” She went on to explain how delivery and content make compliment come across as genuine. “Tone of voice, eye contact, and if it’s not something that everyone else would notice. If they go more in-depth with things and give examples.”

Gentleman’s response:

Guys, to some extent back this up, but the biggest discrepancy is an important one.  In regards to girls they’re pursuing, most guys don’t hand out meaningless compliments and don’t use them underhandedly.

I asked men what they usually compliment a girl on and when they think to say something.  Some men focus on intellect, accomplishments, personality, and wit when those things come up.  However, most said they usually think to compliment a girl when she’s dressed up or looking nice, and they say it when they first see her.  However shallow a girl may think his intentions are, that’s usually not the case.

“I don’t pay fake boilerplate compliments,” one guy said. He continued to say he compliments when, “something is worth complimenting and catches my attention. In a relationship it’s different. You know when they need a little boost… but it’s more like reminding them why you love them instead a compliment.”

Several guys expressed similar ideas, saying that if they’re paying a compliment, it’s genuine, no matter what the circumstances. “If I’m iffy on her or not totally sold, I won’t be putting out many compliments. I’m not always great at hiding my feelings, and when I’m into someone, I’m there.  And I want her to know.” He went on, “I won’t chase a girl just to get laid. So if I’m pursuing someone, it’s because I like them overall as a person.”  Another man shared this point of view. “My compliments are always honest. If I can’t find an honest compliment, I don’t want to sleep with you, anyway.”

Some say they are discerning about when they time their complimenting.  One said he says something, “the first chance that doesn’t seem ‘out of place’ or when she would know I’m not looking for something in return (compliment, etc).”  He continued his thought,”Even then, some girls don’t believe it when I give them a compliment. I guess they have been betrayed by other guys in their past.”

Many, though, aren’t so careful about how they come across. For instance, another guy said, “I will tell her she is beautiful…every chance that I get.  (My compliments) are always genuine.”  Guys say something right when the situation comes up, and if the compliment is always based on looks it may seem a bit like forced, automatic flattery.  A different subject noted, “We all know that you girls love compliments, but not all of us know that too many will make us appear disingenuous.”  This method may inadvertently be confused for the type of empty flattery women are a little uneasy about.

While the vast majority of men vowed that they don’t give out compliments for ulterior motives, a few conceded that they will hand them out more willfully when they’re trying to sleep with a woman.  However, they aren’t trying to be sneaky about it. “I think it’s clear,” one of them said, “If I compliment a woman about her looks, and I’m not in a relationship, I’m trying to hook up with her.”

Another said, “I think the rate of compliments and the type of compliments is pretty easy to distinguish.  If a guy compliments a girl about something very specific it means a lot more than ‘you have an awesome ass.'”  He also said, if compliments are coming extremely frequently, there are probably too many for them all to actually be true.

The only other insincere compliments guys give out are the ones women fish for, and they’re not big on taking part in that either.

The Take Away

Ladies, take the compliment to heart.  If it’s coming from a guy you’re spending time with and getting to know, chances are he’s being truthful about the way he feels for you.  Sometimes men notice that you look good and want to tell you about it, which isn’t a bad thing… we really do try to look good.   He wouldn’t be pointing out something if he didn’t want to see more of it.  Also, make sure he gets to be on the receiving end of some quality compliments.  You know what’s good, so share.

Gents, if you want your words to really mean something, make them specific to your girl.  Think about when you’ve just come out of a game how much more it means when someone talks about how you were hitting every free throw or how you hit the left footed cross with perfect timing and placement than it means when someone just tells you that you had a good game or that you look fit.  It makes the compliment real, and it adds depth to your relationship.