What Men Really Expect You To Do When They Give You A Compliment (And Why It's Absurd)

Here's what a compliment from him actually means.

Last updated on Sep 07, 2023

man offended when the woman across from him, accepts his compliment fizkes | Canva

In 2017, an online conversation went viral, kicked off by a tweet from author and blogger Feminista Jones.

The tweet simply said — “Tick a man off today: Tell him you agree with his compliment of you.”

Jones followed that with a series of tweets arguing that men often react negatively, some even retracting their compliments, if a woman responds to a compliment by agreeing with him.

What men really expect you to do when they give you a compliment

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Her point was almost immediately backed up by hundreds of women, who tweeted screenshots of exactly what Jones was talking about.

One woman shared a text exchange where she responded to a man telling her “nice body” with “I know right?” The man in question became infuriated and quickly informed the woman “Actually you don't really have a good body, need to hit the gym more, I just wanted to start a conversation.”

As a man, when I read discussions like that, there’s a part of me that wants to defend men. I want to whip out the tragically flawed #notallmen hashtag and point out that there are men who would never, ever react like that.


But, if I’m being truthful, my primary reaction to that discussion was recognition. Immediately, I knew, as a man, “that’s so true” and I recognized that pattern of behavior in so many men I know, including myself.

Because there’s no upside to looking at a conversation like that, a conversation that obviously touched a nerve with thousands of women, and saying “Yeah, but I don’t know if that’s entirely true.”

It is true. Men do use compliments in exactly that fashion and we need to be honest about it.

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Men have set social expectations of what happens when we compliment women.


We expect that the woman will be self-deprecating. They will demure, they will blush. They will appreciate the compliment and they will appreciate US for giving it to them.

It’s part of the crazy chivalry culture that gets engrained into men at a young age. While holding the door and saying nice things might sound like gentlemanly acts, the problem is that men often aren’t raised to do those things selflessly.

We’re not taught to do those things because they’re the right thing to do. Men are taught to do those things so other people will validate them and recognize how polite they are. It’s a cycle that seems selfless on the surface but really has a selfish core.

That’s why men aren’t prepared for women to agree with our compliments. Because it robs men of that validation.


Men want women to fight against the compliment, to blush, to say “Thank you.”

But that “thank you” isn’t men wanting women to have good manners or not view themselves arrogantly. Men want that “thank you” because we’ve been told by society that our kind words are gifts to these people and, by God, if they don’t send us a thank you note, then what’s the point?

We have been raised to think that we deserve that “thank you.”

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That doesn’t really have anything to do with the women in question when you think about it. That has everything to do with the man himself.


The compliment is more for us (to make us feel good about ourselves) than the women we compliment.

And that becomes even more apparent when a man was expecting to use that compliment gratitude to start a larger conversation — maybe to be intimate on Tinder — and the woman doesn’t give him the opening he expects.

That makes the man angry, and flustered, he doesn’t know how to react, so he lashes out and, when he does, he reveals the true nature of the compliment. It was never about her. It was about fishing, it was about fishing for a way to force a woman to validate him.


Does every man do this? No. But a lot of men do and a lot of very good men will unconsciously do it in small ways, simply because that’s how men are taught by society to react to compliments.

Fortunately, I think conversations like the ones started by Feminista Jones are ultimately good for everyone, men included, and will hopefully help us break the cycle and stop thinking of compliments in the most selfish ways possible.

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Tom Burns has served as a contributing editor for 8BitDad and The Good Men Project, and his writing has been featured on Babble, Brightly, Mom.me, Time Magazine, and various other sites.