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It’s only words

brunch Updated: Apr 21, 2012 16:41 IST
Seema Goswami
Seema Goswami
Hindustan Times
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Okay, fess up, what is your favourite compliment? What do you most enjoy hearing about yourself? Well, if you’re like most women, the first on the list would be those immortal words, “Have you lost weight?”

You can probably prove this by conducting an entirely unscientific survey among the ladies in your office. But an organisation called the Dental Care Plus Implants Centres (honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up) actually commissioned a study among 2,000 men and women to come to this staggering conclusion. Some of the other gems from this ‘study’: women like to be told that they have a great smile; but for some reason they are not happy if you suggest that they might have had dental work done to achieve it. And yes, the ladies don’t like to be told that they look like (or are beginning to look like) their mothers.

So far, so predictable.
But I guess when it comes to compliments, it’s not that hard to read women. And based on my 40-something years of experience here’s a ready reckoner for all you guys out there who want to please the women (girlfriends, wives, sisters, mothers, bosses, colleagues, etc.) in your lives.

Sadly, I have to bow down to the wisdom of the study quoted above. Women do love being told that they are looking thinner. But tread with caution. You don’t want to overdo it. There’s a difference between saying, “Have you lost weight?” and “How much weight you have lost!” The first implies that the lady in question is looking a little slimmer than she usually does. The second is just another way of pointing out what a fatty she was before she finally went off the carbs (helpful hint: you don’t want to do that).

Compliment a woman on stuff that she’s a bit insecure about

You know how women have this tiresome way of being cagey about how old they are? Well, be a pet and play along. The next time the tricky subject of age comes up, let discretion be the better part of honesty. If a woman confesses to being on the wrong side of 40, this is your cue to say, “You’re kidding! There is no way you are more than 35.” And if you’re asked to guess how old she is, don’t blurt out the first figure that comes to mind. How old do you think she actually looks? Now, subtract 10 from that figure. That’s the magic answer that will have her beaming for days to come.

You can’t go wrong with a compliment about her kids. If she shows off pictures of her new-born, dutifully trill “What a cute baby!” It doesn’t matter if you don’t mean it. She’ll be so much in love with the mite that it simply won’t occur to her that anyone could resist that bundle of cuteness. If you can’t bear to lie so blatantly, fall back on the tried-and-tested formula of: “Gosh, he/she looks just like you.”

Remember to keep your remarks gender
neutral though. Nobody likes to have their girl mistaken for a boy or vice versa. And at that age, it’s hell to tell the sexes apart.
Caution: this ‘chho-chweet’ stuff should only be used on children below the age of 14. Any older than that and your drooling and cooing is just plain inappropriate – if not a tad creepy.

Compliment her on stuff that she’s a bit insecure about. A beautiful woman is always being told how beautiful she is. So, don’t bother telling her that all over again. But the chances are that she feels as if nobody can see beyond her good looks. So, praise her quick intelligence, her ability to hold her own in an argument, or even her wide and varied reading. If she feels you are captivated by her brain rather than her face, she will be putty in your hands. (With a brainy but not particularly beautiful woman, reverse and repeat.)

It’s not just about who you compliment; it’s also about who you don’t. Don’t tell her that her best friend has a fantastic figure, or that her sister looks great after her new haircut, or that the new recruit at your office is quite a looker. She doesn’t need to know how you feel about other women; it’s just going to make her feel that you compare her to them (and find her wanting). In her hearing at least, compliment only her.

And while we are on the subject, here’s a quick word about what a woman doesn’t want to hear. “Gosh, you look tired!” No woman wants to be told that, especially if she has made an effort for a night out. (And it is even more annoying when she is not feeling tired at all.)

Actually, come to think of it, no man wants to hear that either. So if that’s all you’ve got to say, have the goodness to shut up.

Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami