You are pretty…The subtle art of complimenting

  • PublishedMarch 14, 2017

Chris Rock, an American comedian once joked that women need three things: food, water and compliments. It may seem wrong to assume that women cannot live without compliments, but Chris’ statement did have an element of truth to it. In relationships, women require quality and more heartfelt compliments on a more regular basis than men – that is their nature.  This is however not to say that men are not to be complimented.

Compliments are a good way to initiate and maintain romantic relationships. They enable two people to focus on the positives in their relationship. They are a great way of making your significant other feel special and wanted, and also enable both of you to improve your self-confidence and deepen your connection. Compliments are also a good way of knowing what you and your partner love and appreciate about each other.

Complimenting is an art most of us need to learn. It does not end at “you’re pretty,” although it may include that. According to Vincent Ng, a Canadian conversation coach, there are three levels of complimenting, with each level being more difficult than the next. Nonetheless, each one also has a higher emotional attractiveness when done right.

The first level of complimenting is purely physical. It has to do with looks, dressing or even a personal possession that is to be admired. This is the type of compliment that makes one feel good, but that, according to Ng, has the least amount of emotional impact. It is usually the easiest to give. For instance, telling your partner, “you look beautiful in that dress!” or “Oh, you look very handsome in that suit!”

The second level of complimenting delves deeper and enables an emotional connection between two people. It is more focused on a person’s behaviour. It touches on how one acts or does a particular activity. It usually takes you to have known your partner a bit longer compared to the first level of complimenting. Your girlfriend cooks chapatis, your favourite food, and they taste great. You compliment her on her cooking prowess.

The third level of complimenting is what Ng refers to as visionary complimenting. He explains that this type of complimenting is hard because it not only focuses on the behaviour, but also focuses on what the behaviour represents as a value or belief to the other person. Your girlfriend went through the trouble of preparing chapatis (which take a while to prepare) for you, knowing that you would appreciate them. What does this say about her? Does it mean that she is a caring person and goes out of her way to make you happy? The visionary compliment, which is essentially the hardest type to give, seeks the value in the action. It is important for people in relationships to understand and know how and when to apply each of these three levels of compliments.

A few complimenting pointers.

Be diverse. “You look lovely,” everyday, for a whole year will get old. Learn new ways of complimenting your partner. Go beyond his or her looks. Compliment her taste and sense of style or his humour.

Be honest. Find something good about your partner to compliment as often as you can. When you say it, mean it. Don’t flatter or over-compliment (yes, there is such a thing). Your compliments will lose meaning if you do this. In the same breath, when you partner does not look so good, because no one looks good all the time, do not feel obligated to mention it to him or especially her, in the name of honesty.

Take advantage of moments. Compliments arise from taking note of praiseworthy situations and efforts. They don’t just come up. They are a result of conscious effort to notice such moments when appropriate or necessary. Be aware of these moments. Do not let them pass you by.

Learn to not only give, but also to receive. As much as you need to learn the art of paying compliments, it is just as important to learn how to receive them. Women are particularly known to discount compliments. “You look amazing today,” may be met by, “you wouldn’t believe how cheap these shoes were,” or the more common, “this old thing?” Such comments instantly suck the positivity out of a compliment and leave your partner feeling stupid and underappreciated for taking the time to notice and point out something he likes about you. Learn to say “thank you” and if possible compliment back.


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