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Here comes the excessive complimenter

A couple embrace on Tower Bridge in front of the City of London and the Tower of London on August 22, 2012 in London, England.
A couple embrace on Tower Bridge in front of the City of London and the Tower of London on August 22, 2012 in London, England.
Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Who doesn't like a compliment, especially from someone you're attracted to or respect in a career field?

According to PLOS ONE, a compliment "can boost self-efficacy, enhance feelings of competence and autonomy, create positive feelings, strengthen the association between responses and their positive outcomes, and provide incentives for task engagement."

This makes sense. If you do your best at a task and no one acknowledges it, why would you want to continue at that level?

But there's a fine line between giving someone a compliment and being overly complimentary. Anyone who has ever tried to train a pet knows that some of the best results come from telling a pet to do something and then giving the animal a treat. But at some point, the animal should just be able to do the trick without the owner having to keep bones handy everywhere the two go.

Compliments for people can be a little like that. Imagine being gushed over for everything you do. You're great. You're smart. You're just one walking, talking, beautiful ball of genius. And all you did was say, "The light is green."

In the dating arena, this can get very shaky. Both men and women want to feel attractive and be acknowledged by their partners. And in the beginning stages of a relationship, there may be a bit of overkill in the complimenting arena that slowly trickles down to a reasonable rate.

But if the dater isn't careful, his genuine compliments will get annoying if he's laying it on too thick. Here are a few tips to consider when you've gone too far with the complimenting and/or when to calm down.

  • If you constantly compliment your date's physical looks and she never compliments yours back, she may be trying to let you know she's not attracted to you in a romantic way. After two or three compliments, it's time to wait for a compliment to be returned or back off. Try not to be offended. No matter how fine a person is, he or she will always meet someone who just isn't attracted to him or her.
  • If your compliments are met with "thanks" and then the topic is immediately changed to a dry topic, you may be doing too much. "Thanks" and "thank you" are polite responses to a compliment, but they can also be used to get you to shut up. Pay attention to whatever the follow-up topic is after that "thanks." If it has nothing to do with the complimented topic, settle down.
  • Avoid trying to get others to join in on the excessive complimenting. "She looks nice. Don't you think she looks nice, too?" These types of collaboration compliments work well when the recipient feels unsure about something and the complimenter knows the third party will co-sign. But if the third party doesn't even understand the reason for this complimenting session, this can go wrong really fast. Imagine if the third party says, "Not really." Then what do you do?
  • Be genuine. If you really feel like the compliment is deserved, say it. Just try not to follow it up like cake layers. Hold a regular conversation, too. Even if you have compliments just spilling through your pores, treat them like bones. Give them out in small doses. And then wait for reciprocation.

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