Paving the Way to Solid Relationships
You’re dating again! How exciting—and kind of scary too. Getting back into the give and take of the dating game can be difficult. For example, how do you let someone know that you like and appreciate him? Compliments, if made in the right spirit, can help deepen your bond or just make the guy feel good about himself (which is the purpose of compliments, after all). Whether you’re looking for love in this relationship or keeping it on a friendly basis, do it with compliments. It’s a win-win.
Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say
The only compliments worth making are the ones that come from the heart. Guys may have a reputation for being tough and indifferent, but they’re pretty good at spotting hollow flattery. Think of things you genuinely like about him and let them drop into his lap like little gifts. Be real and don’t gush. Let him know you’ve noticed the little things that make him special. Respect his character, his compassion, his intelligence, his sense of humor. Compliments affirm and accept. Tailor your compliments to fit his personality, his sense of himself and how he would like others to see him.
What stage are you at in the relationship? Adjust your praise accordingly. Hold up on the smooshy stuff until the time is right and the lights are low. No clichés. If you’ve heard it in a movie, you probably shouldn’t use it in real life—at least, not until you’re sure he’ll appreciate the reference.
Cases in Point
- Compliment him on his appearance by noticing what is unique about him. Are his eyes the color of the sky? Tell him, if you genuinely believe it. So, it’s a little goofy. Well, maybe you are a little goofy; maybe that’s one of the things he likes about you. If he has recently improved his appearance, tell him so, but tread carefully about the “before and after” aspect. “You look great today, fit as a fiddle!” Instead of, “You look so much better since you lost weight” (wouldn’t you have liked him just for himself before he lost weight)?
- When inspiration strikes, go ahead and say it right then and there. You notice how he’s just waved a few jaywalking pedestrians across the street, so they’re at least temporarily out of danger. “What a good and courteous driver you are,” you say. Or, you’re casually riffling through his record collection. “Wow,” you breathe. “Not only do you have great vintage vinyl, you’ve got great taste in music!”
- Most men love to be perceived as “handy”—any level of competence will do. Did he insist on fixing your sink? “You did such a great job! You’re a man of many talents!” Instead of, “Gee, you should have been a plumber” (which, you must admit, makes it sound as though you think he picked the wrong profession).
- And if his skills are a bit more basic, “Thanks for opening that jar; you’ve got the magic touch!” Instead of “Ooh, you are such a manly man.” In other words, keep it real and specific instead of generic and florid.
- Did you share a lovely, relaxed Sunday morning together? “I’ve never met anyone I’d rather do the Sunday crossword with!” Instead of, “You’re so smart! And I’m such a dunce,” which sounds like you’re either putting yourself down or fishing for compliments, one or the other.
- Human beings work to achieve some things and are born with others. Try to avoid compliments about generalized stereotypical behavior; instead, make it personal and specific. And besides, compliments for hard-won achievements are sweeter to the ear than compliments on faits accomplis. “You’ve really mastered the art of the rebound” is more meaningful than, “Nice game! You’re so lucky to be so tall!”
You can’t go far wrong if you simply keep it real and focus on him as an individual with some very special traits. In fact, it’s not hard to say something nice every time you see him, even if it’s relatively insignificant. Sometimes, it’s the little perks that count.
- Psychology Today: 9 Types of Compliments and Why They Work (or Not)
- Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley: How to Compliment Your Partner
- Reader's Digest: 9 Reasons Giving Tiny Compliments Is the Key to a Happy Marriage
- Purdue University: A Fine Balance: The Magic Ratio to a Healthy Relationship
Judith Tingley is a writer, editor and multi-media artist based in Louisville, Kentucky. She studied English literature at the University of Chicago and has continued her education via classes in editing, as well as through writing workshops. She has also conducted seminars on entrepreneurship. The many articles she’s written for USA Today and Working Mother reflect a broad range of interests, including travel, culture and interpersonal relationships. Visit her website at heyjudetheobscure.com