10 Worst Compliments You Can Give Someone

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Compliments can hit the mark or fail miserably. Here is a list of 10 types of compliments that you may want to avoid in order to improve your social graces.

1. The Too-Frequent Compliment

While it's great to be quick to offer compliments, if you give them too often to the same people (or in front of the same people), you may quickly be viewed as someone who does not take compliments too seriously. We value what is in short supply, so give compliments sparingly. Others will appreciate and be flattered when they do receive words of praise from you.

2. The Extreme Compliment

Have you ever received a compliment that was out of proportion to the situation? Perhaps you were told your outfit was stunning when it was really just jeans and a t-shirt. Try to match the intensity of your compliment to how much you genuinely are impressed. Otherwise, people may question the sincerity of your praise or wonder if you have an ulterior motive.

3. The Overly Familiar Compliment

If you've just met someone, it is best to stick with compliments that aren't too personal. Stay away from physical attributes that might make the other person uncomfortable—such as the color of a woman's eyes or a man's ripped abs under his t-shirt—unless you are in a situation where open flirting makes sense (such as at a singles bar).

When you don't know someone well, choose tried-and-true compliments such as those about clothing, good deeds, or other less personal characteristics.

4. The Compliment With an Ulterior Motive

If you give compliments in the hopes of getting something in return, people will eventually catch on to the insincerity of your motivation. The only ulterior motive that you should have is to make the other person feel good—without expecting it to benefit you in any way. If you find yourself giving compliments for any other reason, such as to borrow something, ask a favor, or even make yourself look good in front of others, it's better to keep your comments to yourself.

5. The Backhanded Compliment

Have you ever been given a compliment that made you feel worse instead of better? The most typical form of this compliment goes something like this: "Nice hairdo! It looks a lot better than it used to." In other words, the person has, in a subtle way, put down your previous hairstyle, but cloaked it as a compliment. Realize that when you give these types of compliments, you are not helping anyone. They are usually offered to make the giver feel good and the receiver feels bad. Instead of cutting other people down, work on building your self-confidence so that you can offer genuine words of praise.

6. The Awkward Compliment

Awkward compliments can come in all shapes and sizes. Some are those that are misconstrued, such as saying "The way you play the piano doesn't even compare to my ability," when you actually mean that the other person is much better than you. Be careful with your words, and think about how the other person will hear them.

If your compliment comes out the wrong way, always be sure to correct yourself. It's better to look a bit foolish but make sure you are understood than to leave the other person thinking the wrong thing.

7. The Desperate Compliment

Desperate compliments often come in groups of two or more. They are similar to the too-frequent compliment but go a bit further in that they showcase a desperate need to be liked by others. These compliments are usually not genuine, sometimes out-of-proportion to the situation, and can become off-putting to those who receive them. If you've targeted someone for your desperate compliments, try holding back a bit. You don't need to praise others for them to value your friendship.

8. The Creepy Compliment

Creepy compliments overlap with too-familiar compliments, in that they are usually overly personal in a situation that doesn't warrant it. They are often given to strangers, and may sometimes be failed attempts at flirting. Generally, the creepy compliment is about some aspect of the person that you find attractive. Instead of being too forward with someone you don't know, try giving the compliment to a friend of the person instead. For example, say "I really admire how physically fit Mike is. He must work out a lot." That compliment might make its way back to Mike on its own.

9. The Group Compliment

Group compliments are those given to someone in front of a group. While it is great to offer praise in some situations, always be aware of who else is present when extolling the virtues of someone else. Your best friend may not be too pleased if you compliment her recent weight loss in front of a group of strangers—unless it's at the gym. Take the context into account, and always consider the audience for your compliment.

10. The Flirty Compliment

Flirty compliments are fine in the dating scene, but they should never be used in casual conversation. Not only may the other person not welcome the "advance," but if it is a stranger, you may find yourself flirting with someone who is attached. Save your flirty compliments for people you know well and who you believe want to know you better as well. Only when you are sure it is appropriate should you cross that line between compliment and flirtation.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."