Is Complimenting Opposite Sex Socially Okay Anymore?

  • Thread starter kyphysics
  • Start date
  • #1
kyphysics
426
362
I tend to mean complimenting on things like looks and/or fashion. I certainly think complimenting someone on their "skills" (say, ability to speak well, their athletic ability, they knowledge of a topic, etc.) is okay and acceptable. That happens all the time.

But, what about complimenting the opposite sex on looks and fashion? Can it be done in a way that is:
a.) not construed as a person hitting on that individual
b.) seen as socially acceptable and not weird/creepy/sexual harassment

Thoughts? I tend to notice people's hair and shoes quite a bit. I don't know how a person of the opposite sex would take it, though, if I said I loved them.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
scompi
16
27
I would think that it depends entirely on the situation, this person's culture, your relationship with this person, and probably several other factors.

Complimenting a stranger on their looks will almost always come off as flirtatious. Whether it's seen as creepy or not depends on the situation (e.g. in a nightclub, it's expected; at the grocery store, not so much).

Complimenting your friends bride/groom on their looks on their wedding day is normal and expected in some cultures.
 
  • Like
Likes Infrared, Klystron, berkeman and 2 others
  • #3
hutchphd
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
2022 Award
5,344
4,510
I think a sincere compliment is always appreciated. You should perhaps ponder whether the ensuing twenty seconds will be excruciatingly awkward, however. And if you are in a foreign culture, then more care is necessary.

Back when I actually did look good I had a really rather stylish Fedora which would occasionally garner unexpected comment: it always made my day. Pure vanity.
 
  • Like
  • Love
Likes Astronuc and kyphysics
  • #4
George Jones
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,606
1,493
And if you are in a foreign culture, then more care is necessary.
And don't rely on he accuracy of Google Translate.

When my in-laws were staying with us few years ago, my Pakistani father-in-law saw me using Google Translate to help me understand my daughter's (french immersion) school work. He asked if it could do English -> Urdu and Urdu -> English, and, after finding that it could, my father-in-law (who loves language) started playing around on his laptop.

After about twenty minutes of this, he said a few sentences in Urdu, and my mother-in-law and my wife both started laughing uproariously. He had typed in English something like "I think your wife is lovely." and the Urdu sentence returned meant something like "I love your wife."
 
  • Haha
  • Like
  • Love
Likes Astronuc, rsk, berkeman and 3 others
  • #5
fluidistic
Gold Member
3,888
226
And don't rely on he accuracy of Google Translate.

When my in-laws were staying with us few years ago, my Pakistani father-in-law saw me using Google Translate to help me understand my daughter's (french immersion) school work. He asked if it could do English -> Urdu and Urdu -> English, and, after finding that it could, my father-in-law (who loves language) started playing around on his laptop.

After about twenty minutes of this, he said a few sentences in Urdu, and my mother-in-law and my wife both started laughing uproariously. He had typed in English something like "I think your wife is lovely." and the Urdu sentence returned meant something like "I love your wife."
Nowadays DeepL is probably a better option than Google translate. Might tell your father in law to try it out.
 
  • #6
strangerep
Science Advisor
3,493
1,773
Thoughts?
Try analyzing honestly why do you feel the need to compliment other people? Because you want them to like you? Or because you genuinely, unselfishly, wish them to feel better about themselves?

The older I get, the more I find that keeping silent turns out to yield a better outcome (for me) more often. Just because one can communicate doesn't necessarily mean one should. :oldfrown:

Expressed differently: the likelihood of a good outcome (for me) is inversely proportional to the urgency of my need to express my inner thoughts.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
  • Skeptical
  • Informative
Likes russ_watters, Astronuc, 256bits and 1 other person
  • #7
kyphysics
426
362
Trying analyzing honestly why do you feel the need to compliment other people? Because you want them to like you? Or because you genuinely, unselfishly, wish them to feel better about themselves?

The older I get, the more I find that keeping silent turns out to yield a better outcome (for me) more often. Just because one can communicate doesn't necessarily mean one should. :oldfrown:

Expressed differently: the likelihood of a good outcome (for me) is inversely proportional to the urgency of my need to express my inner thoughts.
This is a fantastic introspective suggestion.

I think there are probably times when I "secretly" do wish the person I am thinking of complimenting likes me in some way. I am thinking of an attractive member of the opposite sex. But, of course, I would also not ONLY be making a compliment for that reason, as I wouldn't compliment them if there were not something I also genuinely liked. It's usually about hair and shoes.

I think, in general, it's usually easier for women to compliment men and not have the high potential for wrong messages being sent vs. men complimenting women (for historical sexual harassment and societal power dynamic reasons). I have a very relaxed personality usually, so I feel like I could probably "get away" with doing a compliment and people thinking it was party of my natural social personality.
 
  • #8
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
20,987
5,042
The older I get, the more I find that keeping silent turns out to yield a better outcome (for me) more often. Just because one can communicate doesn't necessarily mean one should.
I learned that early on - in high school and college - to keep silent most of the time. In most cases, I would smile and acknowledge a girl/woman who I did not know. For someone I knew casually, I might offer a compliment, especially if the girl/woman initiates the interaction. I might say something like, "You look very nice/fine/. . . ". If I had a close relationship, e.g., girlfriend, "You look beautiful/gorgeous, as always".

I was once on a date to a museum/planetarium with the woman who would become my wife, and I encountered a woman whom I had been previously seeing. The previous relationship was more or less platonic, i.e., we did things together as friends, but there was no exclusivity (at least I was not aware). I thought about complimenting the woman, but I thought my fiancée might become upset, or at least be put off. I don't know how my compliment would have been received by the other woman, but I was pretty sure my date would be upset. I still think about that encounter to this day, since I had passed up an opportunity with that woman (we were together at her place) to express my thoughts about our relationship, well before I met my future wife. It's possible there was something in the prior relationship, but at the time, it was left undisclosed (I had thought about asking her about "us", but decided not to do so, since I did not want to put her on the spot or make her uncomfortable at the time).

I think there is age dependency as well as a relationship dependency. What would be the goal of expressing one's thoughts concerning the appearance of the recipient of that information?

Personally, I don't care about makeup and fashion, and I believe such human practices are overdone/over-emphasized. I'm more interested in peoples' minds, thoughts and ideas.

I think, in general, it's usually easier for women to compliment men and not have the high potential for wrong messages being sent vs. men complimenting women (for historical sexual harassment and societal power dynamic reasons).
It depends on the recipient and the relationship. It's different among students in high-school/college vs co-workers vs acquaintances vs strangers on the street vs . . . .
 
  • #9
Fervent Freyja
Gold Member
691
779
I think it depends more on the context and if you convey intent accurately. Generally, I don’t mind them, especially if I already know the guy. My supervisor often compliments me on something. I recently dyed my hair red and many males complimented it, but it would have been a little weird if I suddenly got the compliment after having it that way for a while.

Like I said, it’s context. I’m going to look for good reasons. If you like my NASA pullover and tell me so, then that’s reasonable. If you like my plain colored pants, then I’m going to be confused and wonder about it. If you like my weird socks, then that’s reasonable. Males compliment my purses and shoes sometimes but I take it that they like the style (pragmatic and different). If a male compliments my style, then I usually take it as a “keep being you” sort of communication.

Repeated compliments are creepy. I had this one man often compliment me on my smell and would try to lean into smell me every time we passed. He called me “Miss Smell good” and that ended up aggravating me over time. I think I ended up blowing up at him. If you like a woman’s scent, ask her what it is.

I think the compliment that men should always avoid is telling a woman that she should smile more. It’s sleezy and I hate it. I also don’t like the “you look better without makeup” because it’s not really a compliment. I don’t like any compliment that simultaneously puts any other woman down, that’s shallow. I like information seeking compliments. I had this one guy I work with compliment my makeup and it turned out that he was wanting to try some out for himself but seemed on the fence, I was able to give some tips.

Many women probably prefer compliments not based on their looks. What is your intent? To cheer her up? It depends on the woman on what kind of compliment to choose. If you give a woman a compliment based on her looks, it’s a good idea to include the *reason* why you like it so that she doesn’t assume you are hitting on her.

I get backhanded compliments from women on occasion and have had a couple from men. Try to watch out for your wording, because we might construe it that way. Compliments in the world of woman-to-woman are complex.

I think that females should compliment males more often and I do try to remember that. I’ll tell a guy that I know if I like their hair if it’s newly cut. Or if I like their shirt. Especially if it’s different and I see they are trying something new out, I will give some feedback. I know that they don’t receive as many as they may need. Women get enough feedback on their style but men do not.
 
  • Like
Likes Rive, russ_watters and BillTre
  • #10
strangerep
Science Advisor
3,493
1,773
I learned that early on - in high school and college - to keep silent most of the time. [...]
It's seems you became much wiser than me, much sooner. :oldsmile:
 

Suggested for: Is Complimenting Opposite Sex Socially Okay Anymore?

  • Last Post
Replies
13
Views
951
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
456
Replies
4
Views
366
  • Last Post
Replies
12
Views
997
Replies
21
Views
837
Replies
3
Views
602
Replies
10
Views
704
Replies
2
Views
428
  • Poll
  • Last Post
Replies
14
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
20
Views
1K
Top