10 Ways to Compliment a Woman, without mentioning her looks

Complimenting a woman’s appearance is mostly automatic.
People  gush over baby girls with
“Don’t you look pretty in that party dress!”
And then continue to mention hair, weight, clothes, skin, makeup, etc. for the rest of her life.
These comments are usually given in a positive spirit,
but if that is the only type of compliment a woman or girl ever hears,
a very subtle but profound message is reinforced:
You are what you look like.

I think we should admire the beauty of women in all of our glorious sizes, shapes, ages, colors, faces and bodies.
But women and girls also need to be praised for
our talents and accomplishments,
our dreams and ideas,
our tiny personal triumphs
and our big public victories!

So here are 10 wonderful ways to compliment the women (and girls!) in your life,
without mentioning her looks:

1. The “Good Job” Compliment

If someone does a good job, at anything, they deserve recognition!
Whether it’s a 4-year old who can read “big girl books”,
a 14-year old who made the winning goal at a soccer game,
or a 40 year old who finally gets her own administrative assistant,
nothing builds up pride and self-confidence more than being recognized for a job well done.

2. The “Brave Heart” Compliment

This is for the shy, hesitant friend who finally gets the nerve to travel to Europe alone,
the newly divorced woman who grows more courageous instead of falling apart,
and for everyone who overcomes the pain of the past,
steps outside her comfort zone and dares to start over again!
Admire her emotional bravery! You go girl!

3. The “You are a Goddess” Compliment

Bow down to her super-natural, amazingly awesome talents!
She can be the Goddess of the Play Date, or the Goddess of the Cocktail Party,
Domestic Goddess or Executive Goddess,
Multi-Tasking Goddess or Yoga Goddess.
Whatever type of Goddess she is,
giving her an official title is the ultimate compliment.

4. The “Smarty Pants” Compliment

If only we told our little girls how smart they are as often as we tell them how cute they are…
She (or you!) figured out something complex, solved a tough problem,
passed a test with flying colors, invented something new, started a business,
proved that women are good at math or science or visual/spatial relationships
(or any of those other things we’re not “supposed to be” good at ).
Pass along a big “Brava!”
(Ms. Smarty Pants knows this already: Brava is for women, Bravo is for men)

5. The “Tough Cookie” Compliment

She juggles being a single mom with a full-time job.
Or she’s the first in her family to go to college.
Or she somehow manages to bounce back from a disaster that would crush most other women.
She deserves all the praise you can give her for her strength, her determination, her stamina and her guts!
So tell her! (and maybe give her a hug too)

6. The “Show Me” Compliment

It doesn’t matter what the skill is,
whether it’s building a compost bin or designing a website,
asking someone to show you how she did it is the ultimate compliment of her skills and expertise.
“Amazing cookies! What is the recipe?”
“You really know how to fix a leaky faucet! Can you show me?”
“I wish I could do _________. How did you learn?”

7. The “Life of the Party” Compliment

Don’t you just love hanging out with someone who can turn a dull event into something fun?
Let her know!
“I love how you make me laugh!”
“You always make me smile.”
“You are so much fun to be with.”

8. The “Creative Touch” Compliment

This one is great for the artsy girls you know,
the ones who always come up with something unexpected and original.
Praise her creative touches,
whether it’s her handmade greeting cards, that wild color she painted her bedroom,
her ability to throw unusual ingredients together into something delicious,
anything and everything that shows her expressive nature!

9. The “Queen of the Castle” Compliment

Compliment my kids, my home, my garden, my cat, and you shine a light on me!
We are co-creators of the spaces we live in and the families we raise,
and most of us are damn proud when someone compliments our home or families!

10. The “Mushy Gooey” Compliment

Go ahead, tell her you love her
(or admire her or think she’s just plain amazing).
You don’t even have to give a reason!

I’ve asked some body image writers to share some of their favorite compliments:

Often giving a compliment is a reflex. The automatic nature of “You look great” keeps our focus on what we see and not much more. This post will surely get women thinking about waiting a beat or two before saying “I love your hair” so that they can give a compliment that means so much more.
So, the first compliment I thought of is one I often tell my best friend: “You’re a really great mom. Really.” (And for those outstanding women without kids, “You would make a really great mom.”)
My other favorite compliment, to give and get, is: “You inspire me.”

Sharon Haywood, co-editor of Adios Barbie and member of AnyBody.org

I can’t think of one specific instance, but getting complimented on my writing means the world to me. My work is a reflection of who I am, who I truly am, at the core. It might sound melodramatic, but oftentimes it feels like my heart and soul laid out on paper (or computer screen). Even if I’m not writing about a slice from my life, it’s still me, my personality, my style on the page. And that’s pretty scary and exciting at the same time.
Writing is my passion. It’s my purpose. I feel like it’s what I was born to do, and what I’ve gravitated toward my entire life. So any time, a reader, a fellow blogger or writer, an old professor or anyone else compliments my writing or says it resonated with them, I am on cloud nine.

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS
Associate Editor | Psych Central Weightless Blog

My favourite compliment came from a good friend of mine who said I was wise, compassionate, and hilarious. I really felt great after hearing that, as I aspire to be all of those things.
It was a great reminder that I am more than how I look and that people love who I am and how I treat them.

Esther Kane, MSW
Psychotherapist and author of 
It’s Not About the Food: A Woman’s Guide to Making Peace with Food and Our Bodies

Dr. Michelle May shares this great fill-in-the-blank way to compliment anyone:

“I feel ________ when I am with you because _____________.”

Michelle May, M.D.
Author, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle

Here’s a compliment I’ve received a number of times: “You are so resourceful!” I think it’s true; I’m pretty good at solving problems on the fly, and finding alternative ways of getting what I need when there appears to be an obstacle. I like being acknowledged for cleverness. I’d much rather be called “resourceful” than told I have great legs or a perfect pair of breasts.
Kim Brittingham
Author of Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting and Live Large

Here’s a recent complement I received from a patient who was moving away in a card he gave me:
“You’re the best therapist I’ve had and I would be lucky to find someone else like you. You always made me feel like you were putting in a lot of extra effort and that I was special. You always made me feel cared about.”
That TOTALLY made my day, because I think that’s what we all want – to feel cared about – and that it’s a gift to be able to create that feeling for someone.

Ashley Solomon, Psy.D
Nourishing the Soul, a forum on body image and the effects of eating disorders

For a brief time in the early 2000′s, my best college buddies all lived within a few blocks’ radius of one another in Brooklyn, and they’d often throw parties at their apartments. I was always fashionably (though unintentionally) late, sometimes arriving as much as three hours into the party. I’m not sure where it started, but my friends used to say, almost every time, that “the party doesn’t start until Golda’s here.” I was never much of a drinker, so it wasn’t about that. It was just that I cracked people up, got shy people who didn’t know other people talking, and had a variety of weird running comedy routines with my friends that had people literally on the floor laughing. It was a great compliment, because it assuaged my guilt about being late and made me feel integral to the whole party experience.

Golda Poretsky, H.H.C., founder of Body Love Wellness

The best compliment I have ever received was given to me by a male friend over ten years ago.
He told me that the way I lived my life inspired him to be a better person. It remains today the most powerful and heartwarming compliment I have ever received.

Julie Parker (B.A. B.SocWork, MAASW) author of Be Yourself, Be Beautiful

Please add your own “complimentary” ideas in the comments section,
or share a favorite compliment someone gave you.
Let’s give each other a big pat on the back!

ps: and please visit my guest writers! Lots of great stuff to inspire you at their blogs!

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15 comments to 10 Ways to Compliment a Woman, without mentioning her looks

  • [...] women appreciate being recognized for what they do or who they are more so than for what they look [...]

  • [...] If you want some advice on how to compliment a girl, read this article. [...]

  • [...] My hunt for body-free accolades met a remarkable ally in blogger Elizabeth Patch, who has assembled an invigorating list of 10 ways to compliment a woman without mentioning her looks. [...]

  • [...] 10 ways to compliment a woman without mentioning her looks! [...]

  • [...] the babysitter because I didn’t look like I just had a baby. As flattering as it was, at least Elizabeth Patch might applaud me for wishing she would have complimented my adept opposite-side driving skillz [...]

  • MusicalLibran

    I am careful with this one – because women and girls are smart – and we read in to what isn’t said as much as what is. However wonderful it is to be complimented on your intelligence or capability, when you live in a world that values the external SO much – if you almost never hear a compliment about your appearance – then I’m certain I’m not the only one that ever drew from that “I’m smart but not pretty”….and would almost melt in ecstasy at the odd ‘you have such a beautiful smile’ that would come my way. I was never starved for compliments – just for the compliments I thought mattered – the ones that affirmed my attractiveness and desirability.

    Now that I’m much older I appreciate that beauty and attractiveness are multifaceted. That there is beauty in everyone when you have the eyes to see it. That compliments need to be honest. So – I praise and compliment generously and appropriately. The gorgeous young shop assistant who went out of her way to help me – I compliment her on the warmth and professionalism of her customer service skills AND that she wears the product herself so well.

    • Without a doubt, we do live in a very appearance based society!
      I don’t think there is anybody who dislikes a sincere compliment on her appearance.
      ( I’m thinking of how 95 year old grandma took so much time to doll herself up at the family reunion, and how she beamed whenever we noticed how great she looked).
      When appearance based compliments stop or slow down or never appear, it can seem devastating.
      I like your idea of including both types of compliments, appearance and performance, with the shop assistant.
      (ps I am sure you have an amazing smile!)

  • ShelliO

    This is the first article through which I’ve found your site & now I intend to go through all of it – great article!! I have many friends with beautiful daughters and it is so hard not to fall back on complimenting their looks. I’m trying to focus more on the effort they put into things, like art, sports, friendship. I read an article recently about children who were praised for their grades rather than the effort they put into the grades. The children who were praised for the grades became afraid to not bring home anything but A-grades so they would opt for easier assignments that they already knew they could do well on. The children whose hard work was acknowledged were more willing to take risks that may have resulted in a lower grade. That seems like such a good way to reinforce effort and growth. I was a just-get-by kind of kid because I knew I was smart enough to not have to work too hard. It took a while for the rewards of hard work and pushing myself to become more important than a guaranteed successful outcome. I’ve learned so much more from what I don’t do well than the stuff that is easy.

  • [...] because I love Elizabeth Patch and because she quoted me!), but I think this is a must-read post on how to complement a woman without mentioning her looks. Spread it [...]

  • Hi Elizabeth-
    This is a great article and I agree with the principal regardless of a woman’s looks or shape! My daughter is a beautiful girl but didn’t have strong fatherly support so no matter how many times she was told she was beautiful, or looked pretty, there was always the self-doubt because there wasn’t that assurance that she was great for “who” she was. We all want to be pretty, but for confidence we need to know that we are great for who we are and what we do & accomplish! When we think of great women of history we don’t think about how beautiful they were, as much as we think about their contributions and accomplishments!

  • I feel the same way, Rose. I like it when someone notices a nice outfit, but it’s so much more meaningful when someone notices your work or your skills, or how you helped someone. thanks for leaving a comment!

  • [...] Please check out Elizabeth Patch’s awesome post on 10 ways to compliment a woman without mentioning her looks! I contributed a little something, [...]

  • This is a great article & wonderful topic!

    The part that I especially love about giving a compliment without mentioning appearance is that we have to be present, paying attention to, and connected with the people in our lives in order to compliment them on something “below the surface.” A compliment like,”you look beautiful,” can come from anyone, a stranger on the street even. Compliments on what we do well, how we treat people, or how we make someone feel can only come from someone who has taken the time to get to know us.

    The act of looking for non-appearance related compliments is a great way to deepen our relationships and learn more about what we appreciate, enjoy, and value in life and in ourselves.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

    • It’s so very true, compliments that show that someone knows who we really are, and not just what we look like, are the ones that are truly meaningful. Thanks for your comment!

  • I would much rather be complimented on my work or on something I did that helped someone else than on my looks any day. I used to worry all the time about not being “pretty enough.” I think it really held me back. I like hearing if my outfit is nice too, if it happens to be, but my favorite compliments are skill/personality compliments.