Compliments: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Oct 24, 2017

How can you make sure that the compliment is actually going to be welcomed? I'm Dr. Liz from Sex Positive Psych, and today I'm talking about compliments: the good, the bad, and the ugly. SO I want to share with you all an email that I recently received. Now this email was sent through the contact form on my website.

"You look amazing! Sorry, you are probably busy working, and don't want compliments from idiots, but I just googled you at SoloPolyers, and saw you on Youtube."

Here's the thing. It is really tempting when you come across attractive people on the internet who we don't actually know that well, to give them compliments about the things that we find attractive about them.

I get this. I am totally that person who sees a hottie, and immediately has all of those sexy thoughts immediately running all the way through my brain. I find sooo many people attractive, and there are so many people who I just wish that I could tell them exactly how hot I think they are.

I...don't though. The thing is, compliments aren't always received as compliments. I am a woman who talks about sex on the internet. What that means is that I am at a much higher risk for harassment, slut-shaming, and all kinds of grossness than other people are. It is not uncommon for me to get messages from random strangers in other countries asking me about sex, in ways that are pretty gross.

And again, I get it. You're going to find people attractive. And it's easy when you find someone attractive to feel like, of COURSE they would want to know that you find them attractive.

But when you're giving someone a compliment who doesn't know you, and especially when that compliment is about their physical appearance, but based on something that wasn't at all about that? It can come off really wrong. It can hit them as harassment, rather than something that is nice and welcomed.

So how do you give a compliment? Number one, ask yourself whether the compliment is just about your genitals. If the only reason you’re giving them a compliment is because they got your genitals excited, think about whether that’s actually necessary.

Is this someone who wants to know that you gave them a boner? Is this someone who wants to know that the sight of them soaks your panties? If you don’t personally know them, if you haven’t already negotiated with them about dirty talk and talk about your genitals, most likely they don’t want to know.

Most likely, that’s not something that they want to hear. So number one, is this just about my genitals? Number two, ask yourself if you can find a compliment about a choice they made, something they’re doing or something relevant to the thing that you’re commenting on, rather than something more out of their control.

For instance, if you’re going to compliment me on how beautiful my breasts are, I acknowledge. They are great breasts. But unless you and I are dating or I have some reason to want that kind of compliment from you, I don’t need to hear from strangers about my tits.

However, if I did a video about solo polyamory and you wanted to compliment me on how clear that made it for you and how much better you understand solo-poly now that you listened to that video, that’s a great compliment. That is a compliment I will be happy to receive.

If what you’re trying to do is break the ice with someone you don’t know yet, giving them a compliment on something related to what they were already saying or doing is going to show them that you’re paying attention.

Give them something specific.

“I really love that point you made about solo polyamory and the way that it centers autonomy and independence.”

That’s awesome! That’s a great compliment. That’s a compliment most people are happy to receive from a stranger and it’s going to make me more likely to want to talk to you as a human being.

If your compliment though is just about my body, I don’t – like this is the body I was given. I do some stuff for my body. I work on the food that I eat. I do different kinds of movement. But it’s not – like I’m not creating this body. This body is what I was dealt. So if the only compliment you have for me is that I have a great ass, all that tells me is you’re a human being who can see things.

Come up with a compliment that tells them about how you are as a listener, how you pay attention, and the things that you understand from them.

So number three, ask yourself if this is the right forum. A compliment that I get on my video that comes on the YouTube video makes a lot more sense than someone who tracks me down on Facebook and sends a message to my personal Facebook profile to let me know that they think I’m hot.

If you found someone’s information in one venue, give the feedback and compliment in that venue. Again, a compliment focused on choices that they’re making, actions that they’re taking and those kinds of things.

If you track them down in some other medium, that’s going to start to feel weirder. The more work that you have to do to give them the compliment, the weirder that’s going to come off.

So if it’s not easy to give them a compliment, there might be a reason. Maybe they’re not receptive to compliments right now. So again, ask yourself. Is this the right venue?

So again, three pieces. Not two. Three. The three pieces are number one, “Is it just about your genitals?” Number two, make the compliment about something that they are actively doing and choosing rather than something they were born with and number three, ask if it’s the right venue.

If you’re in a board meeting and the person in front of you is very attractive and they just gave a presentation, complimenting them on their waist, not appropriate. Complimenting them on their analysis of the data, totally appropriate.

So that’s compliments, the good, the bad and the ugly. Do you have more questions about compliments? Do you have hilarious stories about compliments gone really right or really wrong? Feel free to post them below.

I’m Dr. Liz from Sex-Positive Psych and I will see you next time.

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