Help the guy who trips over his own tongue compliment the girl who won't accept compliments.
November 10, 2011 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Increasingly frustrated bloke looking for practical advice on how to say to his girlfriend - who won't accept compliments - without it sounding cheesy or like I'm angling to get her into bed.

So, here I am, seeing the girl of my dreams after only six years of chasing after her.

If I try and say something nice she either dismisses it outright or it sounds cheesy, like I'm only saying it to get into her pants... which isn't the case.

I'm crazy about her... but I'm crap with words, despite them being my job which is just daft, I know.

Any practical advice for the guy that trips over his own tongue and struggles to convey that, damn, she's gorgeous - even if she doesn't think so herself?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
She may be shy in the moment too- especially if you are both brits!:) I think you should write her a letter. You can express your feelings and she can treasure it later. Plus then it's obvious it's not a tactic to jump in her pants because of the time delay if she reads it later, alone.
posted by bquarters at 3:52 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe "I" statements would help you out here.

"I think you are so gorgeous," is hard to refute. Even if she doesn't agree herself, you sure aren't lying when you say you think so. As for the cheese factor, keeping it specific to the moment helps. Sweeping generalities can be a little goofy, but "I think you look beautiful tonight," sounds very sincere and charming to me.
posted by chatongriffes at 3:54 PM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Try showing her affection a different way -- maybe she doesn't respond naturally to compliments as affection. I've heard people talk about lumping ways of showing affection into categories that different people weight differently. Some people show their affection naturally one way but respond best to receiving a different kind of affection. I'm utter crap with gifts, but will wilt without acts of affection.

Verbal affection - what you're doing
Quality affectionate time - full, undivided attention, E.G. sitting down at the table to dinner together without TV or other distractions, reading her a book, etc.
Gifts of affection - lovenotes slipped into her handbag, finding things for her that show care & thought
Acts of affection - getting up early to make her coffee, making her lunch to take to work, doing chores she hates
Physical affection- rubbing her back, brushing her hair, frequent hugs, etc.
posted by kitarra at 3:59 PM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

I feel uncomfortable, sometimes, with compliments, but I don't dismiss them. I think that somebody who does or doesn't believe them, you can't really craft them in a way that they will accept. And the harder you try, the less sincere it sounds. So I'd perhaps consider abandoning that tactic, at least until she is possibly more comfortable with you...I don't know how long you've been dating, but even if you've known each other a while the relationship might still feel too "new" and for some people, a lot of affection at the start can be off-putting. And, never under-estimate the power of a simple "I really like you." Gets me every time, really.
posted by sm1tten at 4:10 PM on November 10, 2011

Years ago, my boyfriend at the time said to me, "I love the way you laugh." Out of all the compliments I've ever gotten in my life, that one I really treasure.

I think it's because while beauty can be fleeting or manufactured, complimenting someone on something that is part of their "self" is much more flattering and easier to accept.

WRONG: You've got the most beautiful eyes. (CHEESY!)
RIGHT: I love how your eyes crinkle up with you smile. It's adorable.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:18 PM on November 10, 2011 [9 favorites]

My Bear, who I find the most attractive man on earth, is similarly resistant to compliments about anything, even his to-die-for cooking after he has slaved over it for hours. For what it is worth, I handle this two ways:

1. I compliment him anyway -- e.g., I love the way that shirt looks on you, it sets off your great green eyes, you look especially handsome today, this is the best waffle I ever ate, etc.

2. His denial reaction is now a relationship joke -- I used to ask if God was going to strike him down with a lighning bolt if he said "Thank you," so now I often add something so the whole compliment comes out like -- I realize you can't safely accept this but . . . you look especially handsome today!

She'll figure out soon enough that you simply think she is beautiful and appealing. It helps to remember to also compliment things besides her looks that she is more responsible for, like her writing or taste or decorating ability or whatever.
posted by bearwife at 4:21 PM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Any practical advice for the guy that trips over his own tongue and struggles to convey that, damn, she's gorgeous - even if she doesn't think so herself?

Stop trying to convey "damn, she's gorgeous". She's heard it all her life, from men who are trying to get in her pants and it's clearly warped her view.

Pull out out some board games and play them. If she's good, mention that how smart she is.

Go to the movies. If she has particularly good insight about it, remark on that.

Play sports with her. Mention the how good in stealing the basketball, running bases or finding the perfect spot to make the goal.

etc, etc

See, when you're telling her she's gorgeous, really that compliment is all about you (in a way). It's how you view her, how the world views and inlots of ways, expects her how to act and behave. It's cliched, but all you're doing is complimenting her on the shell, something she was born with and has only small control over. You have to see beyond the physical beauty and find the beautiful person inside.

A compliment sometimes comes with an unstated, by very real obligation to respond to the person giving the compliment, to give the attention, for her to forget about what she's doing and instead concentrate on this other person and the limited view they have of her.

Go, hang out with her. Enjoy the time, get to know her, let her get to know you. Bring flowers. Say what a good time you're having. But lay off the compliments, because it's like shining a spotlight on her and she doesn't sound like she's comfortable with that.

Finally, if you have really want compliment her on the looks, make it something more than "You're gorgeous". Be specific, i.e. "Wow, that blush really brings out the color in your eyes" or "That cut of that dress really flatters you, ames you look like a rock star/ high society/queen (DO NOT USE PRINCESS)."

But really, chill out, hang out and quit trying to flatter her so much.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:24 PM on November 10, 2011 [28 favorites]

Do you have to SAY it? Why not touch her on the cheek while looking her in the eye? Or tuck some stray hair behind her ear or just look at her a fraction too long and smile. Don't, for the love of all things holy, stare so long it looks creepy. The other thing is to get and maintain eye contact with her while you're talking to other people. Like you're thinking of her, even though you have to put up with the insufferable drongo in front of you.
posted by taff at 4:27 PM on November 10, 2011

You've been chasing her so hard for so long that you don't yet realize that she's in your arms, seems to want to be there, and is hoping that you'll relax and watch a movie with her.

You wrote it yourself — You're crazy about her. Note that one word in your sentence — crazy. I'm certain that she's considered that word a time or two.

You're still in the whole limerence thing, you think she's this magical creature, and I'm sure she's really a rockin' gal and all but I'd bet you two hundred dollars or pence or whatever it is you have over there that she's about worn out.

It won't be long that you'll learn what she looks like when she's sick, and crabby, and telling you your mother is a buzzard.

Or she'll send you off to buy toilet paper because you've run out and then you'll come back and hand it to her 'round the door, and it might even smell funny in there. (Gasp!)

You'll cook her your favourite (note metric spelling of favourite there — I did that esp for you) meal and she won't like it. She'll cook you her favorite meal and you won't like it.

You're just going to have to suffer through this until it runs its course, like a damn fever — which it pretty much is — and (hopefully) lay it down before she skates.

She's a friend of yours, or would like to be, even though she's a woman and stuff. Treat her like a friend, but a friend you can take a flower to on their birthday.

Good luck.

(review — damnit, Brandon beat me to it)
posted by dancestoblue at 4:45 PM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I read somewhere that when someone is resistant to compliments, you should try talking about their behavior that is objectively verifiable rather than talking about their interior traits and character. So you don't say, "You're an amazing cook!" because it's easy for the goblins in their head to dismiss this as you just not understanding how many things they've actually messed up or could have done better.

Instead you say, "Wow, you really worked hard on dinner tonight! I noticed that you've been cooking all afternoon!" It's harder for the goblins to argue with that. And the hope is that the person will eventually start putting the pieces together themselves and will start changing their internal narrative a bit. I'm afraid this approach might sound a bit condescending, but although I don't think it is, I also have to run off to work, so I don't have time to expound. Anyway, I just wanted to throw it out there.
posted by colfax at 4:50 PM on November 10, 2011 [10 favorites]

I agree with colfax. This is a variant of a behavior modification technique used for kids called Nurtured Heart. Instead of paying compliments, you start with stating what the person is doing (hey, you wore your green shoes!) in a way which is inarguable. Then you layer in the compliments in a similar way. You be specific and you state it in a way that is irrefutable.

This is all supposed to translate into "I'm paying attention to you/I notice you".
posted by plinth at 4:57 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You think it sounds like you're trying to get in her pants and she hasn't said this, if I'm reading your question right. But she's your girlfriend, so you're already getting in her pants. I'm thinking she isn't taking it that way.

Some people just don't like being complimented. If that's her, I don't know how to respond, but there's some advice in this thread. On the other hand, it sounds like maybe you want to keep telling her how gorgeous she is. In that scenario, think of other compliments. Tell her how great she is at making people (or better, you) laugh, or at making hollandaise or something.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:15 PM on November 10, 2011

I get uncomfortable by those "You're so pretty!" compliments when my man lays 'em on me. Specific physical compliments are more okay -- about my hair, or the way something looks on me, and I would kill for a compliment about my eye makeup -- but I would much rather get compliments about skills or qualities that I have that I value. I never get tired of hearing what a world-class parallel parker I am, or a good listener, or how great my chicken-and-stuffing casserole is. If you've been chasing this girl for six years, you must know a lot about her. Compliment her on something besides her looks and see if she's more receptive. Good luck!
posted by jabes at 5:41 PM on November 10, 2011 [8 favorites]

This is probably going to be unpopular advice, but maybe you should just say something along the lines of "be quiet and accept a compliment, already." Sometimes, people need to get it through their heads that they are genuinely liked and appreciated, and nothing short of that will get them ready to hear it.
posted by Gilbert at 5:51 PM on November 10, 2011

Jabes is dead-on right. Compliment people on their accomplishments, not their unchangeable traits. (Mostly.)

Also, NEVER offer compliments that aren't 100% genuine and in the moment. (IE, "You did great with that speech!" right afterwards is going to be much more well taken than the same thing, just as genuinely intended, a week later. It sounds phony, even if it isn't meant that way.)

Also, if she really doesn't like getting complimented, don't do it. Some people just don't like it, and maybe part of loving her is respecting that.
posted by gjc at 6:20 PM on November 10, 2011

I'd like to go against the overwhelming positivity here -- and not as devil's advocate but from my own gut feeling. Your GF may have irreparably low self-esteem. There's a space within the self sometimes that is untouchable by others' opinions. Some like to maintain that space, as a form of self-possession; others cannot help but, and stay inaccessible. (I've been there -- both theres.) Your relationship does not sound symmetrical at present. You are overflowing with love. At some point perhaps she will exhaust that love. I think your question about compliments is a symptom of deeper troubles.
posted by taramosalata at 6:46 PM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Um, so wait a minute. If she's your girlfriend, then isn't "getting in her pants" kind of part of the deal, and wouldn't the feeling be mutual? Are you 14? Super-religious? Is there anything about this relationship / her history where this might be a concern (which is legitimate, but if so totally changes the question)? If not, then I'd get that phrase out of your head immediately. You are consenting adults! Getting in her pants should ideally be awesome!

Now then. All you can really do is compliment what you appreciate -- say all these positive things you think and/or feel -- with words that are difficult-to-impossible to interpret other ways. It sounds like her self-esteem isn't the greatest; if she's not accepting compliments, it might be because she's twisting them. You don't have to micromanage this, but if she responds particularly poorly to a certain word or phrase, retire it. It's really about paying attention to her -- which, if you feel like complimenting her this much, shouldn't be an issue at all, right?
posted by dekathelon at 7:06 PM on November 10, 2011

If you can pull it off, let her overhear you saying something complimentary about her to someone else. Or just say it to someone you're pretty sure will repeat it back to her.

(But you have to mind the subject matter. "Jane knows the fastest route between any two points in this city," that kind of thing, yes. "Jane's got a nicer butt than any other girl I've dated, no.)
posted by lakeroon at 7:49 PM on November 10, 2011

Only 4 words necessary here:

Brandon Blatcher is right.


maybe you should just say something along the lines of "be quiet and accept a compliment, already."

I think Gilbert knew it when he wrote this, but this one could reaaaaallllly backfire on you. For some people, it might be what they need to hear. For me, if you said this to me, I would think you were controlling/inconsiderate/rude.
posted by cairdeas at 7:50 PM on November 10, 2011

"be quiet and accept a compliment, already."
Yeah, I basically said this once, without really thinking about it. I was frustrated at the person's rebuttals of my compliments. I think I said "Just say 'Thanks' and accept it". I guess it did kinda backfire. After that, whenever I complimented the person, they just automatically said a cold "Thanks", and I knew they didn't really mean it, and were just saying that because they thought that's the response I wanted, which it wasn't.

Generally concurring with others. Be more specific than just "You're gorgeous". And maybe space the compliments out a bit.
posted by Diag at 11:55 PM on November 10, 2011

A more easily taken family of compliments is "I love spending time with you / having sex with you / heckling cheesy TV with you / waking up next to you".

Asking her sincerely for advice on some subject she is unusually knowledgable about is another form of compliment.

Like it or not, "You're gorgeous" is just repeating the words of every sleazy stranger who ever tried to get into her pants, and it's not any different to what you might think about an expensive car or a particularly impressive staircase.
posted by emilyw at 1:54 AM on November 11, 2011

"be quiet and accept a compliment, already."

I dunno about that, but when I compliment my girlfriend and she turns it down, I playfully say something like, "You callin' me a liar?" When she's down on herself, sometimes I'll say, "Hey, don't talk about my girlfriend like that!"

Re: cheesy and trying to get in her pants, has *she* actually said that? Because the way you phrase the question makes me think that might just be in your head. In FACT, the way you phrase the question could be interpreted to mean that cheesy compliments are the only ones she doesn't dismiss. Some folks like cheesiness.

If you can pull it off, let her overhear you saying something complimentary about her to someone else.

You don't even have to be sneaky! I was working on a presentation for work, and I was really hard on myself, even though my girlfriend had seen it and kept telling me it was really good. It was nice to hear, but it didn't really stick - until we were out to dinner with some friends and she started bragging about it to them. That really made it stand out how sincere her compliments had been, and at that point I couldn't really dismiss them, all I could do was blush and feel good about myself.
posted by solotoro at 4:40 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are the compliments a "thing", where you focus really intensely on her and give a compliment and there's an expectation of some kind of response? That can be uncomfortable to receive and sometimes compliments given like that are less than sincere (I'm not saying *you're* not sincere!). I'd toss one in unexpectedly sometimes, casually, and without an expectation of a response from her.

Your actions are going to show how you feel, and that's what's going to carry you through here - do you treat her well, are you genuinely happy to spend time with her (is there a better compliment than someone obviously just enjoying spending time with you?), is it relaxed and comfortable (which helps her be relaxed and comfortable)? You guys have known each other six years, and this is an awesome new phase of your relationship - accept it and be happy!

Dial it down a level, maybe, and I mean that in a way where I understand how excited and awesome you feel but I've also been on the receiving end and it can be too much. You're not chasing anymore, you're in a relationship.
posted by mrs. taters at 6:23 AM on November 11, 2011

If I were a copywriter in need of copy or a script writer etc etc I would ask a question like this.....

Or if* it's real - show her this thread and admit it it - can't think of a better 'in' than that.

** I smell a rat - how can you not be wanting to get into her pants? 6 years?
posted by fatmouse at 7:18 AM on November 11, 2011

I have a friend who is so beautiful! So beautiful she has been on the television making the news more beautiful. Both men and women who meet her tell her immediately that she is beautiful all the time. People have unexpectedly kissed her hand. (She does not encourage this, people are just weird) She is graceful enough about accepting compliments about the way she looks, but she doesn't want that to dominate what people like about her. She has accepted that her looks - and people's reaction to them - are a part of her - and is at peace with that.

But the kind of compliment she really loves? That someone loves the way she thinks. Likes her way of seeing the world. Thinks she has a feisty spirit. Lights up when she laughs. Thinks her curiosity is really attractive. Loves the way she talks about her family or friends, how attached she is to her scarves, always wants to talk about what everyone's reading, etc.

In short, compliments that resonate with her - and with a lot of bright women with rich inner lives and strong sense of self - articulate the things about the way she is that you like - not about the way she looks.

If you need to express how gorgeous you think she is - you don't have to be awesome with words, and in fact the more flowery you are and attempting to be descriptive about physical attributes, the more of a disconnect you're going to get. A simple "mmmmmmm" and a happy sigh says it all.
posted by sestaaak at 11:42 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

One time, compliment her and explain that this time, she looks so good you are trying to get in her pants. If this starts a conversation-let her know that you promise to let her know when you are complimenting her to get into her pants so she'll know the difference.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:31 PM on November 11, 2011

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