Complimenting a lady these days ain’t easy.
Say too little: you’re cold and distant. Say too much: “You’re no longer welcome at this bar.”
But figure it out we must, because ladies are lovely and deserving of praise.
So we went straight to the source, and asked 12 real, live, sex-having women about the compliments they’ve received that were real winners — and why.
The overarching sentiments were the same: make it genuine, make it specific and don’t talk about her “assets.” That last one you should know already. If you don’t — go home, you’re drunk. Then read this later, because you need it.
Otherwise, take a deep breath. Swallow. Head over to her. And execute.
Here are some winners to get you started.
Frances, 32, Creative Consultant
Married and very stoked about it
"All girls like to be told they look beautiful: that is a given. But the nicest compliments I have gotten are about my general demeanor. 'You look so bright and cheerful.' 'You look so powerful and in control.' 'You look so happy today.' Those ones really get to me. And my married brother used to always compliment women on their earrings. He said he learned it from having sisters. It strangely works."
Zosia, 32, Print Manager
Single and half-assing it
"A compliment is only good if I believe you. This tends to exclude all compliments given in the following scenarios: via text, street hollers, before sex, during sex, after sex, when sober, when drunk. Once, a guy told me that watching me making morning coffee in my underwear was 'humbling' — I fondly remember that one."
Bethany, 28, Model/Actress
Single and good at it
"If you want to get in my pants, tell me I’m a unique breed of woman and I’ll probably be putty in your hands. Do not ask me how I could possibly be single or why I don’t have a boyfriend. That’s not a compliment. It’s a way of making me defend myself. And the answer will always be because there are too many men in the world like you."
Layla, 32, Graphic Designer
Living happily in sin
"Be polite and genuine and do it quickly. If she says 'Thank you' and turns away, that’s a cue to exit. I actually prefer a compliment and then a quick exit. The ball is in my court if I want the interaction to continue more. I like when I hear 'I just have to tell you ... Hope you have a great night.'"
Stella, 32, Personal Assistant
Getting pretty domestic
"In the very beginning of our relationship my boyfriend showered me with compliments to the point where I almost thought it was too much ... almost. Now, the most recent compliment I received from him was 'The wind is blowing your hair in the most perfect way.' 'Are you trying to say I look beautiful right now?' 'Yes,' he said. Compliment received."
Shelley, 28, Grad Student
"While catcalling and street harassment is an unwelcome and obtrusive part of my day, I do appreciate a real, bona fide compliment that acknowledges my beauty. I particularly love the compliments that traffic in the humorous. One man once complimented me on the whites of my eyes: 'So bright, so clear.' I gave him an off-color response about sleep and carrot juice. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me feel good."
Jean, 30, Financial Services
Six years single and fucking exhausted
"My favorites: 'You have great taste in music; can you make me a playlist?' Or 'I like your style.' Pile it on. I'll listen to that s*** all day."
Otto, 35, Magazine Editor
Coupled up and in it to win it
"A man approached me on the street. My first thought: 'This is never good.' But he said, 'I pass by you here every day and I just have to say it today. Today is the day. You have these steely, crystal, just wildly deep blue eyes. And I really think we should talk about you letting me take you dancing.' 'I really needed that today. Thank you so so much,' I responded. 'But I have a fella and I can’t go dancing with you.' He just smiled and walked away, looking back to say, 'He better appreciate those eyes!' Compliment. Put in the ask. Take it for what it is. Champ."
Kat, 34, Digital Content Director
Married and pretty damn into it
"Really specific always gets me, like: 'I love the shape of your hands' or 'Your laugh reminds me of home.' Cheesy is okay, just be specific."
Ally, 26, Digital Marketing
We live together and don’t kill each other
"Recently I was on the subway reading and this old homeless guy is giving a speech. Then he walks down the aisle and is like 'Excuse me! Pardon me! I need to get by!' As he passed by me, he then turns back and locks eyes and goes, 'You are so beautiful.' And that was the highlight of my month, probably.
Lily, 27, Marketing Coordinator
Depends on the day
"It was like a dog day of late summer and this guy I was dating and myself were hiking at a pretty aggressive pace because I'm ultra competitive. We got to the top and he looks at me, and I'm mortified thinking I probably smell like a mountain man and he just pulls me into him and said 'Hot damn!' I liked that it was OK to be a sweaty mess and his acknowledgment that I’m excellent at physical activities. It was validating."
Lucy, 32, Campaign Manager
Puttin’ it out there
"I had a straight man say, 'You know, I really like how you matched your eyeshadow to your shirt. Looks nice.' Same man also said, 'Hey, I like the pattern of your shirt. It looks like a Ming Vase.' I was really impressed that he noticed exactly what I was going for. Another line that slays: 'You look like that hot redhead from Mad Men.' Cause that is also what I am going for."