Your Guide To Complimenting Women Without Being A Total Douche

dakota johnson

By Dr. Tee Williams and Joanna Schroeder

1. Complimenting a woman you’ve just met on something she’s done or achieved shows her that you’re about more than just physical appearance.

Not only does this set you apart from all of the other “you’ve got a great smile” guys, but it actually shows a little bit about who you are as a person, too.
If you tell her how great a joke she made was, she’ll know you appreciate humor. If you tell her you’re intrigued and impressed by her career as a chef, she’ll know you appreciate her hard work and that you probably have a shared interest in cuisine.

2. A genuine compliment about something other than looks reduces the risk of a making a woman who isn’t interested in you feel harassed.

The moment you compliment a woman on her beauty, body or sex appeal, it’s hard to get back to a place where you’re just being friendly. She’s either going to respond in kind (if she’s interested in you romantically, too), or she’s going to feel uncomfortable that you went there.

A compliment on something other than looks will allow you to keep the conversation from entering that dead zone where you know she’s trying to figure out if you’re a creep and how quickly she can make an exit.

3. You have more of an opportunity to get to know her, to see if you’re actually interested in the first place.

It doesn’t matter how physically attractive she is, we all know that real chemistry comes from something deeper. If you’re focused upon giving compliments on her appearance, you’re probably not paying close attention to the person she is.

Giving compliments on things other than her looks requires listening closely when she talks about her life and her work. Asking questions about her interests and things she’s proud of will not only offer you opportunities to compliment her creatively, but it’ll also give you a quick inside scoop into whether she’s a woman you’d actually want to spend time with.

4. It shows that you’re paying attention, that you’re thoughtful and that you’re doing some work.

It’s easy to go for the low hanging fruit. Many women are so used to hearing compliments from guys on how they look that it becomes boring. You never hear jokes about cheesy guys approaching women and saying, “Hey, that’s an impressive Master’s Degree you have there, woman. Why don’t you whisper in my ear about the research you discovered when you were writing your thesis.” (Hint: Don’t ever be that cheesy, even with genuine compliments!) That’s because cheesy guys don’t care about that stuff, they only see the face and the body. 

If you’re not like that, prove it by doing some work. She’ll notice.

5. Non-physical compliments are an opportunity to say something nice while showing more of who YOU are.

Saying “You’re pretty” is more about them. A non-physical compliment is about you and them. It gives her a peek into the things you’d be able to talk about if you guys spent more time together, and offers her some insight into whether she’d be attracted to your mind an soul, not just your body.

6. If you’re already in a relationship with a woman, it shows you value her for more than a trophy or a sex object.

You love her laugh, her insights about your work problems, the way she cares for her friends or the kids. Tell her how hot it is when she fixes the broken sink. It doesn’t matter what they are, tell her what you love about who she is as a person.

7. Using non-physical compliments helps you to avoid cultural misunderstandings.

When we started writing this list, we both asked our friends about the worst pickup lines they’d ever received. A few of the white women mentioned having guys call them “thick” – and we had a discussion about the ways in which that word can be a compliment or an insult, depending upon its use and your culture.

What is considered attractive and what is considered a compliment differs from culture to culture AND person to person. Don’t be that guy who assumes everyone thinks like you do. We all have blind spots. Using non-physical compliments will held you avoid sliding down this slippery slope. 

Speaking of terrible pickup lines and compliments that are bound to insult a woman or create misunderstandings, here are a few non-compliments guys have mistaken for compliments in the past:

1. Never say “You’re __________ for a girl.”

Funny, strong, muscular, smart, good at sports, accomplished… none of these things should ever be qualified with “for a girl”. In fact, nothing should ever be qualified with “for a girl” unless you’re trying to make clear that you’re sexist. Stick with “You’re great at that” or “You’re really funny.”

2. Never say “You’re ______ than you look.”

A guy actually once said to Joanna, “You’re way more intelligent than you look” after meeting her in a bar. He thought it was a compliment. She did not see it that way. In fact she laughed… hard… at him. Stronger, smarter, funnier, richer… it doesn’t matter. This set-up is doomed to fail.

3. Never say “I didn’t expect you to be _______.”

Guys, try dropping your expectations of women. Sure, we all pre-judge people to some degree. That’s human. But if you have them, please don’t say them out loud. If you tell a woman you didn’t expect her to be a doctor, she’s going to wonder what it was you DID think she’d be. It’ll sound like you assumed she’d be dumb, or uneducated. If you say you didn’t expect her to be a mom, or an athlete, or anything else, you just look rude and are setting yourself up for miscommunications.

Here’s how you too can be spectacular in complimenting in creative, thoughtful ways:


  • Be observant about the person you’re talking to. Pay attention to what she’s saying. The opportunities to give genuine compliments right there in what she’s saying!
  • Ask questions! Listen when she answers, then ask follow-up questions. Then ask questions about the answers to the follow-up questions. The more you know, the more compliments about her mind and her accomplishments will present themselves.
  • Keep your hands to yourself. Don’t touch people you don’t know. Not even on the elbow. Smile, laugh, Flirt. But don’t presume the right to touch a woman.
  • Watch her facial expressions and body language for signs that she isn’t interested. Is she turning away? Looking for her friends? Are her arms crossed over her chest and her eyes somewhere other than your face? She’s probably uncomfortable or done talking to you. Tell her you enjoyed meeting her and walk away. If you stay somewhat close by and smile at her warmly a while later, she’ll make contact with you again before she leaves if she was interested.


  • Don’t be so damn overt in stating your interest before you know something about her. If you’re quick to say “I’m interested!” before you’ve had an actual conversation, it’s pretty clear what your intentions are. Don’t be that guy. It’s not a good look. Take your time and learn more about her as a person. That way if you say you’re interested, she might actually believe you.
  • Don’t overestimate your importance. Seriously, bro, you’re not the only guy she’s going to talk to in her lifetime, and you’re probably not her future husband. If you go into every interaction with women like you’re God’s gift to women, you’re going to come off as an asshole, not someone she could actually care about.
  • Don’t presume she WANTS YOUR ATTENTION. Not all women are looking for a date. Even single ones. Even if they are looking for a date, it may not be you.  Sometimes women just want to be with their friends, or all alone.
  • Don’t stare at her chest. Breasts don’t speak. This advice is as old as the hills, but somehow we need to keep telling men this. Can we knock this off already, guys?!

This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.