"I can't compliment a woman anymore" - MM#31

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Without a doubt, gentlemen, these are confusing times when it comes to the “new rules” of dating and courting women.

Our reader, Linda M., concurs:

“I’ve been on dates where men have said they are scared to open the door for women or pick up the bill because they’ve been told off for doing so previously. I like both of these things done for me so I’m disappointed when a man doesn’t demonstrate what I classify as chivalry.”

Bryan and I too often find ourselves tongue tied, stuck in unclear situations, and needing to clear up misunderstandings when something we’ve said didn’t land the way we intended.

 But this recurring complaint from men is where we lay the smack down:

“I can’t compliment a woman anymore.”

It’s high time to euthanize this weak expression of helplessness and exasperation.


Men, You Are Better Than That

When a man says “I can’t even compliment a woman anymore,” he’s revealing that his attempts to compliment are less a genuine expression of praise or admiration with no expectation of return…

…and more a self-serving act to extract something of desire from his target.

And when that doesn’t happen, it’s followed by a temper tantrum turned “I’m taking my ball and going home,” self-ejection from the game. 

I’ve never wanted that guy on my team.

Why would any woman?

The 4 Problems of Your “Compliment Hammer”

Men often bring a Compliment Hammer to every situation, treating each unique woman – and each unique context – like a standard issue nail.

Here are the 4 key problems you’re not considering with respect to paying a compliment:

1. Your compliment is oblivious to CONTEXT.

2. You’re only complimenting the PHYSICAL APPEARANCE.

3. You think your INTENTION is more important than the IMPACT on the other person.

 4. You expect a black-and-white UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTABLE set of guidelines that applies to 4 billion unique women.

In today’s podcast, we give a story-gone-wrong from each of these situations, as well as the antidote.


Women Will Happily Give You Their Trust and Affection

(if you deserve it…)

 Here are 4 things the women in our community made abundantly clear:

1.     Yes, women very much still want compliments (as do men).

2.     Women want you to demonstrate you’ve considered their interests, their safety and the context – not just your own agenda – before thrusting an expectant compliment upon them.

3.     Women will place a disproportionate amount of trust, affection and connection to the man (men) who has attuned his senses to her unique needs, desires and fears.

4.     Women want a man who is willing to learn and handle potentially difficult feedback without collapsing (anger, shutting down, running away, giving up).


In other words, if you’re coming from a place of admiration, respect, and wanting to understand THIS unique woman in front of you…

 …the greater the likelihood your compliment (and you as a man) will be received.


Quotes from the Women in Our Community


Linda M:

“I have often felt uncomfortable when receiving a compliment because the CONTEXT felt inappropriate. 

On one hand I do feel men should take some time to consider what they say and how they say it. 

On another I feel sorry for men because it is a sensitive time and women are more expressed about what they are uncomfortable with. 

This challenge extends far beyond just giving compliments. I’ve been on dates where men have said they are scared to open the door for women or pick up the bill because they’ve been told off for doing so previously. I like both of these things done for me so I’m disappointed when a man doesn’t demonstrate what I class as chivalry. 

I think if men approach every situation with curiosity they will develop the ability to understand the boundaries of the individuals they interact with and can adapt their approach accordingly.”


Kara A.

“I had a CEO comment on a Private Message on Linked In that my photos looked hot. I had known him for years, had placed him in his previous role (Kara is an executive recruiter) – I have never been able to work with him since that word from him permanently changed everything.”


Tara T.

“At work, men don't need to talk about women's appearances. Unless you two are very close friends and she brings it up, just don't do it.

I totally see how men might feel worried about everything they say, but it's just a new paradigm. 

Women have been mincing their words forever in other ways for men (trying to seem less direct, less assertive, less demanding, etc.) so I think generally we're more used to obsessing about what we say. 

The bottom line though is that if something doesn't land well, which is okay because everyone makes mistakes, a quick "oh shoot, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable; I should've been more mindful of how I said that." will quickly fix it. We're all in this together.


Melissa R. 

“If he is your boss, authority, your pay check is dependent upon this man, etc. a compliment said with a positive intent may or may not be received well because of the power factor. 

I think it’s important we don’t develop any “rules” around when a man should or shouldn’t share a genuine compliment.

Maybe it’s more about as a man is your compliment to a woman genuine, non-sexual, non-wanting anything in return... is the intention truly admiration and genuine authentic sharing? Or is there an agenda? Is there anything behind the compliment conscious or unconscious? Do you want something from this woman behind your compliment?

I think we need to start talking about this with men and us women need to start understanding more of what invokes our fears. Some ate very instinctual and the more I understand them the safer I would feel.

A world with less compliments from men to women will not make more women feel safe.”

Michelle N.

“Compliments that work for me have more to do with my talents, personality or skills. If what I am wearing is well done, complementing on how the color or style suits me, without reference to whatever body part it may accentuate, without looking me up and down, first, and DO NOT comment on my weight.”

Dominick Quartuccio