A World Full of Compliments, Part 1

We all have that one female friend or loved one who just can’t take a compliment. EVER. She usually responds to compliments with “oh no, I’m nothing special” or “oh please, you’re just saying that.” Women not being able to take compliments is very common. Instead of a sentiment of gratitude, a woman does the opposite and puts herself down in a sarcastic, and even self-deprecating way. Yet, when a woman actually accepts a compliment, and by some grace says “thank you”, then people judge and see her as being cocky or maybe even narcissistic.

Why is that?

One study showed that only 22 percent of compliments given from one woman to another were accepted, while compliments from men were accepted 40 percent of the time.

Women with high self-esteem reject compliments to seem modest, while women with low self-esteem reject compliments because they generally just do not agree with them. Unfortunately, women live in a world where they are scared to take a compliment out of fear of judgment, or they don’t take the compliment because they feel that whoever is giving the compliment doesn’t mean it and is just being polite. The female-to-female dynamic has become very complicated through means of culture and social media. Women have been socialized to see other women as competition, or even threats.

There was a study that found that just a whiff of a woman close to ovulation is enough to stimulate another woman’s testosterone levels, a hormone linked to aggression, along with her desire to compete.

Benny Armias
Photo Credit: Benny Armias / Instagram: @bennyarmias

That means women even have innate (biological) instincts to see women as threats to them. This may make it a bit harder to accept compliments, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.

On the other side of the spectrum, how do men respond to compliments? Do they accept them or do they also have a tendency to think twice about accepting them? Are they just as prone to self-deprecation as women are? When it comes to men getting compliments from their own sex, men regard appearance-based praise as a come-on. In some ways, it can even appear threatening for the man receiving the compliment.

Men are less likely to express behaviors that would make them appear vulnerable, so both giving and receiving compliments can be difficult for them when one is trying to stand their ground as the alpha male.

With regards to women giving compliments to men, women find it hard and are usually cautious so that they don’t seem too forward. They may also hesitate to compliment a man due to not wanting to get more attention than they bargained for. They worry that telling a guy “nice tie” will make him think she’s hitting on him and that now he should pursue her, when in reality, she really just wanted to compliment his tie. The social script for men is usually to initiate conversation and give the compliments, so a woman complimenting a man may be seen as being “too forward.” In today’s world compliments can be tricky to both give and receive, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t. All you have to do is learn the art of giving a compliment, which will be discussed in Part II of this series.

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