How To Compliment Someone – And How To Respond

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No one’s ever really taught how to compliment someone. Equally, receiving compliments or flattering comments can be difficult for some people, so they don’t know how to respond.

Here’s what to if you want to express your admiration for someone – without coming off as creepy, offensive or downright hurtful. And how to gracefully respond to a compliment.

Why It’s So Hard to Compliment Someone Without Offending Them

Complimenting someone without inadvertently causing offense can be challenging due to the delicate balance between sincerity, context, and individual sensitivity.

People vary greatly in their interpretations of flattering comments, influenced by cultural norms, personal experiences, and self-esteem. A well-intentioned compliment might unintentionally touch upon insecurities or trigger past negative experiences, leading to discomfort or offense.

Additionally, the vocal tone, timing, and delivery of a compliment can greatly impact how the compliment is received. Without a deep understanding of the recipient’s emotional landscape, even the most genuine of compliments can miss the mark and inadvertently cause offense and hurt.

Thus, navigating compliments requires a high degree of sensitivity, empathy, and an awareness of both verbal and nonverbal cues.

Young woman being wolf-whistled and catcalled by two men on the street

Wolf-Whistling and Catcalling Are Not Compliments

All too often, men wolf-whistle or catcall women, thinking that they are simply expressing admiration for her beauty. They see their crude comments and gestures as flattering and complimentary – when that could not be further from the truth.

Wolf-whistling or catcalling a woman is never positive, nor a compliment – it’s a form of sexist harassment and objectification. This hostile behavior reduces women to mere objects of male desire. It also creates an uncomfortable and potentially threatening environment, instilling fear and unease in the woman.

The best way to respond to a wolf-whistle or catcall is to simply ignore it. Harassers thrive on the attention they are getting from your response, so ignoring them takes their power away.

The 3 Best Ways To Compliment Someone

Many well-intentioned men face similar dilemmas when trying to compliment a woman.

You meet a really attractive and intelligent woman at a party. You talk for a while, flirt, and really seem to be hitting it off. Maybe you even make tentative plans to meet up for coffee sometime.

Then, things suddenly go downhill. You’ve commented that she has a “really nice hourglass figure”, which you thought she would take it as a compliment. Instead, she becomes deeply offended. You go into damage control mode and try to clarify your comments, but it only exacerbates things. She tells you you are being “inappropriate” and with a look of complete disgust – WHAP! – she slaps your face, turns on her heel, and departs.

As you stand there alone, rubbing your cheek, you’re trying to figure out why she was so upset. It seemed like a harmless comment – but maybe you don’t understand women as well you should?

Note that nothing ever warrants a slap in the face – unless the situation was threatening, or you were incredibly and purposefully rude.

There are really three ways to give a compliment:

  1. From a confident, embodied place
  2. From a place of scarcity and worship
  3. Non-verbal, with an admiring smile, or a kiss on the hand

While worship may seem like an admirable quality, putting a woman above you is not healthy either – for you or her. (Embodiment, confidence, scarcity, and putting women on a pedestal is something you can learn more about at the Somatica Training).

Here’s a way though to translate a compliment from “You’ve got a great hourglass figure” into something not entirely about her – but more about your feelings about her: “I’m really enjoying talking to you.”

There’s a huge difference in these two statements: The former is an objectification of her. Which never resonates. The latter is not up for argument – it is how you feel. She can choose to acknowledge your feelings or not. But they’re still yours.

Kissing a hand is a great non-verbal way to give a woman a compliment.

How to Respond to a Compliment

Knowing how to accept and respond to a well-meaning compliment can be just as challenging as giving it. And there’s always the question of: should you reciprocate?

The best way to respond is simply to accept the compliment with genuine gratitude and appreciation. Acknowledge it with a simple “thank you” and a sincere smile, reflecting the warmth of the gesture.

Avoid downplaying or dismissing the compliment. That can really negate the giver’s kindness and diminish the exchange. Instead, affirm the gesture by expressing how it made you feel or how it positively impacted your day. This validates the giver’s words and fosters a positive connection.

Additionally, reciprocating with a compliment of your own, if genuine, can further enhance the interaction, creating a mutual exchange of positivity and goodwill.

Want some deeper guidance at becoming a pro at giving compliments? Consider talking to a dating and seduction coach! Find your perfect one here.

Find a professional sex coach near you or by expertise now.

Celeste Hirschman
Celeste Hirschman
Celeste Hirschman is the is the co-creator of the Somatica® Method and the co-founder of the Somatica® Institute. She received an MA in Human Sexuality Studies from San Francisco State University, and a BA in Women’s Students from UCSC.

In her teaching and coaching, Celeste routinely draws on her extensive training in attachment psychology, sociology, gender studies, and body-based modalities like Hakomi. She uses these embodied learning principles to help students and clients tap into their own somatic wisdom, deepen their experiences of pleasure, and realize their full personal and professional potential.

A prolific writer, Celeste researched and published a defining paper on adolescent sexuality development in 2006, during her tenure at SFSU’s Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality.

Since then, she has co-authored 3 books with Danielle Harel: Cockfidence, Making Love Real, and Coming Together. She writes frequently and is generally the first expert journalists turn to for quotes and information on sex, dating, and relationships.

No matter what she does – whether she is co-producing the sex-coaching-based TV series Here She Comes, or teaching at the legendary Esalen Institute – Celeste always brings her unconditional love, scintillating presence, erotic energy, and insight to every part of her work.

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