A couple weeks ago I created a short, informal survey about how men can approach women with compliments. In a series of posts this week, I’ll talk about the top 3 things these results suggest.
Lesson #1 was: Touching a woman without her permission is a great way to squick her out.
Lesson #2 is:
Telling her you find her attractive could go either way – depending mostly on whether she’s attracted to you.
+-----------------------------------------------------------------+ | Before we go any further with this, allow me offer a gigantic | CAVEAT LECTOR: **This survey is not science.** | | | |(1) The questions were made up based on things that really | | happened, but they're not designed to match any kind of | | theoretical framework. They're just some things that happened, | | that seem different from each other. | | | | (2) I have no idea who the respondents are, other than people | | with internet access who probably read English. I didn't ask for | | any demographic information and there is no boy-o-meter that | | would prevent people who don't identify as women from responding. | | | | I also didn't ask for women who are ATTRACTED to men. | | If you're not interested in men, that may well influence | | whether or not you enjoy a particular way of being approached | | and complimented. It's just a casual internet survey. | | | | Take it with All the Grains of Salt. | +-----------------------------------------------------------------+
The survey consisted of 5 scenarios and one general “check all that apply. Two of the scenarios were about a guy straight up telling a woman that she is attractive. Look how respondents rated them:
The first obvious conclusion is:
But we can add to that a more subtle observation: The success or failure of telling a woman she’s attractive depends about 50% on the woman and 50% on how/when you actually say it. As long as you don’t touch her without her permission, a quarter of women are likely to like being told they’re attractive, basically no matter how you do it.
Another quarter of women will be squicked out, basically no matter how you do it.
And the remaining half of women will either like it or be squicked out… depending on context.
The “It depends” answers were totally crucial on this one, of course, so let’s look in some details:
The most frequent “It depends” answer fells into the “We’re flirting”/“I’m attracted to him” category:
- If there seems to be chemistry, and I am into him, it’s ok. Otherwise, cheesy. - Is he also attractive? Am I looking for a hook-up or a relationship? - If the conversation has turned into flirting, yes. Otherwise, NO! If the man in question is not sure if flirting is happening, err on the side of no. - If we’re flirting/mutually interested, it wouldn’t bother me, but if we’re talking about our pets, work, academics, etc,. it would bother me. - Was there a spark before he said that, or is he just making a move too quickly? - If he’s cute and otherwise smart/friendly/interesting, yum. If he’s not at least two of the above, yuck. - Ok if there was already chemistry/flirtation and he was just verbalizing it
Notice: UNIVERSALLY, women said this is okay IF SHE IS ALREADY INTERESTED.
And if she’s not yet interested… yuck.
Another popular “It depends” answer was, “Relevant to the conversation” versus “Irrelevant”
- If the conversation had nothing to do with attractiveness, etc., and the statement basically comes out of FREAKING NOWHERE, it sets off all the Creep Alarms and the pleasant conversation is no longer pleasant. If it’s on topic, though, I’ll take it as an actual compliment. - Context. If it fitted into the conversation and wasn’t said in a lecherous way, it’d be fine. - This would be cool if the earlier conversation went well and seemed like it was heading in this direction.
And a third popular response group was “Has he already complimented a non-physical attribute?”
- ok if he also reacted to the stuff I said/compliented non-material things too. The impression to avoid is “I have been putting up with you making this noise because you are pretty”. - He must have already expressed interest in my knowledge/wit/competence. This means that we’ve had more than just a tiny bit of chit chat before he busts out the “attractive woman” bit. - It may not be a yuk, but only if it comes at the end of a long conversation with obvious interest signaled from both sides. I will not necessarily take it as a compliment, I’ll most likely read it as an unimaginative proposition to see each other again. Because of the lack of touching it’s not a capital crime and it might not single-handedly disqualify the person. The chances that it’s not a yuk are still slim, but I’m willing to say it depends, just to account for all the socially/sexually awkward people out there. - If it’s clear he’s actually been paying attention to and enjoying our conversation and the implication is “…in addition to the other things I like about you (sense of humor or intelligence, for example),” then maybe.
Respondents were amazingly tolerant and gave guys lots of slack. There was a lot of “This is awkward, but maybe that’s the best he can do.” Women clearly want to give guys the benefit of the doubt if they can.
And you can help them if you that benefit of the doubt by (1) not touching them without their permission; (2) complimenting something non-physical before you compliment their appearance; and (3) making the compliment relevant to the conversation you’re having.
I wordled all the bar/you’re attractive “It depends,” and you can see that, as with touching her knee and telling her you think she’s beautiful, it really comes down to the conversation and whether or not the woman is attracted you.
And then the “check all that apply question included two “physical attraction” items:
Telling her you find her attractive is okay if she’s into you already –
but if she’s not yet into you, you’ll pretty much ruin your chances.
In other words, shut up about her appearance, unless you’re totally sure she’s already into you.
This might be the most counterintuitive result of the survey. Based on comments guys made to the original blog post about this, they compliment a woman’s appearance in order to open the door to romantic or sexual interest. Like, “I find you attractive. For me, the door is open. Is the door open for you?”
Asking this before you know her, um, door is open… is likely to result in her slamming the door in your face. Like, 75% likelihood.
In the next post, I’ll tell you what guys can say that WILL make her feel good and make her potentially more interested.