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Dating is Awkward: How to Respond to an Awkward Compliment on a Date

Updated on August 12, 2013
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I have suffered through some terrible and hilarious dating and friend experiences, and came away with some advice that I'm happy to share.

"You like the way the light makes my face blue? Is that supposed to be a compliment?"
"You like the way the light makes my face blue? Is that supposed to be a compliment?" | Source

If you’ve ever been the recipient of an awkward compliment (and who hasn’t?) you know that it can be difficult to hold back a snort, snicker, or at the very least, a surprised expression.

But sometimes it takes your own faux pas (or one of mine) to figure out how best to manage a giggle-worthy statement. So learn how to accept them ( and even come to appreciate them) like a boss by reading the following tips.

Understand that the complimenter sincerely means what they say.

Maybe the complimenter is so taken with you that despite their best effort, he or she has trouble putting their attraction into flowery or romantic language… or, what they think is a beautiful description feels like an insult to you.

On a relaxing car trip my friend’s husband gazed longingly at her, traced her face with his finger, took her hand, and uttered those words every woman wants to hear…

“Honey, your arms remind me of fried chicken.”

I nearly fell off the seat laughing, but my friend was not so amused. He tried to save the moment (“Fried chicken is my favorite! Your arms are so tender!") but it took a lot of work before she grudgingly acknowledged that he meant it out of attraction.

Have you ever been the recipient of an awkward compliment?

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Have you ever flubbed a compliment on a date?

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Ignore the words and accept the sentiment.

Occasionally, someone may choose the wrong language for a compliment (and I don’t mean the language of love).

I went on a date with a man who thought I was terrifically curvy, and wanted to express his appreciation of my figure. After our meal, he looked into my eyes and without a trace of flippancy, sincerely announced that he thought I was “perfectly zaftig”.

It was a genuine effort and some might think that being perfectly anything is an automatic compliment, but how was he to know that despite its literal meaning (juicy), “zaftig” is not always a compliment? Although I am a deliciously voluptuous woman and the compliment was spot on for a close friend or lover to observe, it was an awful lot for a first date.

Be kind.

Don’t laugh, stare, roll your eyes, or otherwise insult the person. We are all human, so sometimes we say things without thinking first.. other times we tend to overthink a situation, especially when we are trying to impress someone we find attractive. How would you feel if you flubbed a compliment to someone you were interested in? I know my face would heat up like an oven! (And it has.)

So be a mensch and smile. Try not to make the other person feel uncomfortable after they have spent time dreaming up what they deem to be a wonderfully flattering remark. Likewise, fishing for more compliments is a no-no. The awkward ones were bad enough. Don’t make someone go through that again.

Changing the Subject on a Date

Looking to change the subject? Bringing up topics like the local sports team or the weather is so transparent that your four-year-old nephew would be able to see through the effort. Here’s a list of subjects that do not require a complicated segue:

  • Best movie or tv series and favorite scenes
  • Taste in music or reading material
  • Recent vacations or travel destinations

Say “thank you.”

The quickest way to get through an awkward compliment is simply to thank the person, and then change the subject.

Or if you feel you must, briefly continue the exchange with one of these easily-managed follow-up statements:

  • “What a nice thing to say.”
  • “I appreciate that.”
  • “How sweet!”
  • That's the best thing I've heard all day."

"It is? Why, thank you, kind sir."
"It is? Why, thank you, kind sir." | Source

Don’t embarrass the complimenter by attempting to educate them.

In the case of “perfectly zaftig”, I was so taken aback by the comment that I found myself explaining that the word has also been used in place of “fat”, whereupon he was immediately embarrassed and so was I.

But I had learned from my reaction in time for the next example (same date): “Your hands are so soft… it must be from all the typing.” Did I ask him why or how hands could become soft from typing? No, I did not. I blinked, smiled, said thank you, and asked what he liked best about the town where he lived.

Don’t feel you need to reciprocate immediately.

This is one of those situations where you will almost always feel you are beholden to come up with something to continue the conversation. Don’t fall into the trap! Forcing yourself to come up with a compliment is unfair to both of you.

So if you want to reciprocate, let it happen organically.

How to Compliment Someone on a Date

Wanna-be complimenters, here’s a quick guide about how a compliment should be delivered.:

  • Use the right language. Unless you are multi-lingual, please avoid complimenting someone in a language other than one you both speak. (As for Pig Latin, Javascript, and Klingon – if you can figure out how to share a compliment in these languages without killing a special moment, go for it!)
  • If you flub it, explain right away. It can turn into a private joke that you both enjoy. Out one night, I spied my otherwise gentlemanly date attempting to eye my hidden cleavage surreptitiously. So I did the same to him, and when he realized it we laughed and laughed. It became an ongoing joke for the entire time we were together.
  • Time it right. If you want to compliment a woman on her looks, don’t wait until after she has eaten. Likewise, a man will appreciate a compliment that he can demonstrate immediately.
  • Make sure they can hear you. There’s nothing worse than building up your courage in order to bestow a delightful, well-thought-out compliment upon your date… unless they didn’t hear you! So face your date in a place where you can be heard, and speak clearly. Have fun!


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