I recently came across an online discussion that helped me understand some of the experiences men have that differ from mine.
A reddit user asked: “What aspects of a man’s life are most women unaware of?”
Not surprisingly, this question received a lot of answers.
One thing I found particularly fascinating was how men reported almost never receiving compliments on their looks.
Receiving a compliment oftentimes meant a lot to men. Many of the responses deeply touched me.
One man who had been complimented on his eyes by a girl at the drive up window stated: “Other than while in relationships, I have never just been told I look good. I thought about it the whole drive home and my day way [was] about 10 times better because of it.”
Another man who had received a compliment from a stranger about his jacket wrote: “In 21 years on this planet, that’s the only time anyone has ever done that (that’s not family or a very close friend). It made my day 100,000 times better.“
I was not aware that receiving these simple, nice compliments could have such a positive effect on a man’s happiness. Here are my main takeaways from this realization:
Compliments about appearance can be a good thing.
As a woman, I have been conditioned by feminist literature to think that compliments about appearance are something negative. And the truth is, I find there is often too much focus on complimenting women on their looks only, to the detriment of the more unusual acknowledgments of qualities such as courage, compassion, intelligence or strength.
Yet what I learned from this reddit thread is that compliments about looks are clearly not inherently bad or obsolete. Yes, it is important to achieve balance in how a woman is being complimented in order to not reduce her to an object. However, if a compliment is received well depends entirely on the situation, the relationship between the person making and the person receiving the compliment, as well as the timing.
Consider complimenting men, in particular your partner, more often.
I did not realize that many men are “starved” for positive attention and how different their experience is from the experience of women. It was amazing to see how a little compliment can brighten the day of a man and even improve his self-esteem.
It is a nice surprise to compliment the men in our lives more often. Obviously, we want to choose compliments that are genuine, nice and appropriate for the occasion.
In the words of a reddit user, “20 years passed before I was told by a woman other than my mother that I was handsome. If you think a guy is handsome tell him. Chances are he hasn’t heard it in a long time.”
When complimenting men, be okay with awkward moments.
Unlike women, who are used to being complimented, men oftentimes do not know how to respond to compliments.
For instance, one man reported: “There’s this girl who keeps complimenting me on my clothes and I’m so taken aback by it because it never happens and I never know how to react.”
Another man wrote: “Being complimented, for any reason, is weird. Men don’t get compliments as frequently as women do. And when we actually are complimented, we believe there might be malice or sarcasm within a compliment where none exist—simply because of the infrequency of it.”
For the person doing the complimenting, this means that there may be moments of slight discomfort. For instance, I remember how awkward I felt after saying, “looks good” to one of my good male friends who had just gotten a new haircut. Whereas a female friend would generally reply, “thank you” to a similar compliment, he did not respond at all.
Back then I thought that maybe he just did not want to hear that compliment. Now I realize that it is more likely that my friend was just surprised and did not know how to react.
While people of all genders have different experiences in daily life, all humans have similar needs.
We all want to feel loved, respected and good about ourselves. We all want to be seen as whole and complete.
And oftentimes, loving and sincere compliments can be extremely helpful in filling these needs for another person.
Who knew that telling your partner, “You look good in that suit and tie.” could be a revolutionary act in 2016?
This article was first published on Elephant Journal here.