Successful relationships all have a standard set of characteristics. Among them include compassion, and the ability to compromise, a sense of humor, trust, positivity, mutual respect, and hopefully, at some point, love. Understanding, friendship, presence, and intimacy are also essential. But of those on this list, perhaps one of the most critical traits is respect, as it means that you recognize your partner in the relationship as a whole person with their own unique set of experiences and opinions.
In respectful relationships, it is commonplace to share common courtesies with the other and to recognize, or compliment, certain behaviors. It seems, however, that the very notion of compliments and how they are given and how they are received, is also a common annoyance in many relationships. And this is because men and women give and accept compliments differently.
The challenge with women and compliments
Though in theory, everyone benefits from hearing a compliment now and again, it seems that women are more likely to deflect a compliment that they receive, than to accept it. Even the strongest and most successful women are often uncomfortable receiving a compliment, and the main reason is that they fear that it will make them look like a narcissist.
In a largely male-dominated world (though the playing field is getting more and more equal every day), certain behaviors that are accepted or commonplace for a man are not quite as broadly accepted as for a woman. While we won’t get into those specific examples here, though on the inside a woman may glow from the compliment that they have received, on the outside they will fear how others will perceive their acceptance of the positive remark. As a result, they are far more likely to brush off the compliment or deny it altogether.
When it comes to the relationship game, men want the ability to give a compliment to their partner, female or otherwise. So, if men want to ensure that women will receive the compliment, they need to ensure that the compliment is conveyed both in words and in the tone. As the adage would suggest, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Women want to know that the compliment is coming with conviction.
Men need positive validation
From the male perspective, compliments are very important. Though women struggle in receiving compliments and are therefore less likely to give them, they need to remember that men will thrive on these positive comments, especially when they come from the woman that they care about or that they are interested in.
When men receive a compliment, they don’t forget about it. They also tend to be far more likely to think about the person who provided the compliment. Receiving a compliment, whether it be verbally or in writing, creates an increase in serotonin, and makes the person feel good about himself. Humans, men and women alike, are wired to want to hear good things about themselves. People aim to please, and they want to be liked. Thus, compliments are powerful reinforcements that influence a person’s zest and their overall outlook on life.
There are many reasons that men enjoy receiving compliments. Aside from the fact that it provides a natural rush of joy, men want to feel admired. And men want to be admired for who they are and what they do, not for what they look like. So, if you admire a man’s dedication to his job, his children, his parents, volunteering, or whatever it might be, be sure to focus on those characteristics rather than something physical. The compliment will be longer-lasting and will be far more appreciated and meaningful.
Men also want validation and to feel special. They want to know that they stand out from the crowd in a good way and that there is something unique in them that you find to be a redeeming quality. Though they don’t often show it, men often suffer from feelings of inadequacy, and we are not talking about physical shortcomings (should there be one). Rather, men are always concerned about how they rank amongst other men, and they want to know that their unique skills are recognized. Further, men are men, and they appreciate when their masculinity is understood, especially when they are made to feel that they are a step (or more) above the rest.
Finally, men, too like security, and they feel more secure when they are appreciated for who they are and the contribution that they bring to the relationship. So, if your man does something special for you, even if you could have done it yourself, take the time to recognize that he went out of his way to make it happen. Recognizing the behavior for what it is (a kind gesture) will motivate your man and make him feel good about himself. Of course, if your man takes it up a notch and does something for you that you could not have done for yourself, not only thank him but compliment the work. Going back to our comments before, this helps to validate his masculinity and will give him a bit of a natural high to know that he was able to play the “man card” for you in a good way. This also helps make the man feel more secure and needed in the relationship.
How to compliment a man
By now, it should be pretty clear that men thrive on hearing some positive feedback regularly. Not only do men thrive on it, but they also need it. So, what is the best way to compliment a man and make sure that it sounds sincere (if it isn’t sincere, it shouldn’t be said) and from the heart? Here are four categories to consider when framing up compliments that count.
- Masculinity – If you haven’t gotten the hint yet, we’ll make it clear to you now. Never hesitate to compliment a man’s virility. While you shouldn’t overly focus on physical looks (great hair or face, because that could be luck), other traits are absolutely fair game. A man’s strength, his ability to make you feel safe, and even his ability to do “man” things such as change the oil in your car, help you hang stuff in your apartment, lift something heavy, etc., are all behaviors that men will like to have recognized. And of course, a man’s skill in other areas shouldn’t be left out either, if you know what we mean.
- Hidden talents – If your man has an ability that he doesn’t tend to flaunt often, be sure to seek it out and recognize it. Maybe you had discovered that he has a beautiful tenor singing voice which you picked up on when the two of you were belting out tunes in the car. Or, maybe you noticed some woodworking tools in his garage and realized that he is an excellent carpenter. Perhaps you saw some doodles in a sketchbook in his condo, and realize that he is an artist. As you get to know your man more and more, you’ll more than likely find something that he is excellent at. Be sure to let him know how awesome you think it is.
- Character – While all of us are indeed created equal, through nature and nurture, we all develop our own personalities. And some of us come out a bit ahead of others. If your guy is just a great guy, make sure he knows it. If he stays in touch with his mom, has a great relationship with his sister, volunteers his time at a non-profit, holds the door for you and lets you pass first, recognize these little behaviors that he might not even realize makes him unique. He’ll appreciate knowing that you find him to be great, and he’ll be further encouraged to keep up the good work.
- Style – If he has a great sense of style and doesn’t look like he just stepped out of his father’s closet, be sure to let him know. And be thoughtful in how you do it. Perhaps he shows up on your doorstep for a date, and when you open the door, HE takes YOUR breath away, make sure you catch your breath and tell him so. Men too love to know that they look great, and they will appreciate knowing that you recognize the effort that they put into looking good.
Of course, make sure you don’t overdo it in the compliment department. Remember that there is a time and place for everything. It’s important to practice sincerity and deliver positive feedback in the moment, it is absolutely possible to say too much of the right thing. Though your compliments might be valid because he is a great guy, if you take it too far, it could come across as desperation or that you are trying too hard.
Look for the right time to deliver your praise, and make sure it is a time when your man will be allowed to appreciate it. If he is focused on something, or deeply involved in a project or trying to hit a timeline, it might not be the best time to dole out the kind words. Save them for later though, and perhaps consolidate so that you don’t go overboard.
Relationships are an art form, and compliments are simply one of the many brushstrokes. Your compliments will be quite powerful and will influence his feelings and actions. Just make sure that it is not a one-way street. If you are giving him praise on a regular basis and you aren’t getting much in return, that is a pretty big red flag. Rather, if the compliments are pretty well balanced, and you learn to successfully master the art of saying nice things and recognizing him, you’ll make him happier, and your relationship will be happier too.