Complimenting a Woman



Women are incapable of simply saying, “Thank you.” It’s not in our DNA.

We justify compliments by making excuses. We diffuse them by giving others the credit. And we deflect them by batting ‘em back in the other person’s court with the obligatory, return of same compliment. It goes something like this…

“I love your outfit.”

“Thanks, I LOOOVE yours too,” (said before even looking to find she’s wearing ripped sweats, and a tee shirt that crassly says, ‘Check out my Box’ with a picture of a boom box on the front.)

“You threw an incredible party.”

“Oh, I had a ton of help, Mark Bittman has the best recipes and my hubby did a great job on the grill… and the people at Party City really know how to fill a balloon… and the guy at the supermarket double bagged all the sodas so, I didn’t have to worry about them falling out and over-fizzing later… and… and… and…”

“You look so thin.”

“Oh please, it’s just these jeans I’m wearing. I live in them because they hide all the rolls I have under them. Luckily, they were on a sale or I never would have bought them.” (G-d forbid we told someone we paid retail.)

So, so sad, ladies. I mean, could you imagine if guys did that?

“Hey dude, great outfit.”

“Thanks. It’s funny, I was just thinking the same thing about yours. I didn’t even know people were still wearing overalls and yet you make them look so on trend.”

“This was a killer party, man.”

“Well, I had a ton of help… My wife marinated the chicken in that bottle of Bullseye sauce we had lying around. Thanks to not cleaning the grill in like, a year, there was that unique cooked-in flavor. And it wouldn’t have been as good without the fine people at Samuel Adams making their Pale Ale that just screams fun times.'”

“You’re lookin’ thin these days.”

“Really? It’s just these Dockers I’ve been wearing to work with adjustable side bands. They allow me to wear a smaller size and open up the waist for some extra girth around the middle, plus the pleated front never hurts. Plus I got them at Target… on sale.”

I know, it makes us sound insane. Especially considering the person giving the compliment would like to hear, a “Thank You,” rather than get a dissertation on why they shouldn’t have complimented you, in the first place.

P.S.  I’m sorry for calling you insane, before, that was thoughtless. What I meant to say is, you look fantastic… hey, are those new shoes? Love them, but everything looks good on you! Well, you know that.


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  1. absence of alternatives says

    This struck a cord because I am the worst offender of all. (Now that sounds like bragging, and for that, I am very sorry…) I have been reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and she talks a lot about how women tend to have a hard time accepting compliments and praises.

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  2. Ariana says

    Them: Love your outfit, Ariana, is it new?
    Me: Oh, gosh thanks, it was a BARGAIN, you wouldn’t believe how little I paid! At Ross (Marshalls, Burlington, insert bargain store here) of course!
    Why do I do this?!?

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  3. MrsSmith says

    Guilty as charged.
    I’ve made a point to try to teach my children (both young daughters) to say “Thank you”. Not only for compliments, but also for “I’m sorry”. Our tendency is to say “Oh, it’s okay”, but sometimes it really is not okay, and we need to just say Thank you and let it be.

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  4. rachel @RunningRachel says

    LOL! I love this! I too fall victim of the “Thank you… {continue ramble about price of outfit or negative self talk about myself}. I need to work on STOP talking after the word THANK YOU :)

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  5. Essher Lock says

    I think the reason we act so modest when it comes to taking a compliment is because it’s hard to sound graceful without sounding over confident or conceited. It’s become so normal to dismiss the compliments or credit others or return the compliments that we almost expect it. Maybe we should also practice not being disappointed when we only get a simple Thank you after we compliment another a woman?

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    • Jenelle says

      I didn’t realize other women did this until I was in college, and on my own. I used to just say “Thanks!” But you know what? Other women think I’m a real bitch! Some of my closest friends have finally told me that I come off as conceited and bitchy because I don’t dish out the fake compliments back! (They love me now, but hated me before they really knew me.) It’s so hard to find a good balance!

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    • Jenny Isenman AKA Jenny From the Blog says

      It’s true… it almost sounds funny when someone simply says thank you. From now on I’ll just say something nonsensical like giraffe and walk away.

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  6. grownandflown says

    So, so, sadly true. Yes, just yesterday I received a compliment about a pair of black boots I was wearing. Did it occur to me to respond with a simple “thank you” and move on to a higher level of conversation? No, I prolonged the boot discussion by mentioning that they were half-off, and purchased at this story, when the weather was this cold, etc. etc. When it comes to clothes, maybe it’s that we can’t resist telling the backstory rather than the thank you.

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    • Jenny Isenman AKA Jenny From the Blog says

      Although sometimes telling the low price is part of the bragging, no? I’m certainly in a weird way proud when I get a great deal. More to talk to my therapist about!

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