According to a Chris Rock bit that puts the differences between men and women into the most simplistic terms possible: Women need food, water, compliments, and an occasional pair of shoes; while men need only three things: Food, sex and silence. “Feed me, fuck me and shut the fuck up,” he jokes in the bit. Hilarious, but inaccurate: A recent Reddit thread reveals that men will in fact tolerate a tad more talking than zero if it’s in the form of compliments. Yes, it’s true: Men, long thought to be islands of self-esteem with no need for outside feedback, want praise, too.
In the thread, a Redditor asks men what NSFW secret they wish women were aware of. While many of the answers amount to the sort of old chestnuts that are not secrets at all, like “have sex with me without me having to ask you,” or “give me blowjobs without me having to ask you,” a surprising number of the comments are men wishing women knew how much they want to be complimented.
“I like compliments just as much as you do,” cokeiscool writes. “Shut up and tell me I’m pretty every once in a while—can make my whole day.” Others co-signed immediately. “Back in December a girl told me she really liked my shoes,” another user said. “I’m still riding the high on that compliment.”
Others reminisced about some of their favorite compliments women had given them. “I have a blue TMNT shirt I bought years ago, the old 90s cartoon turtles,” Jaymakk13 wrote. “I always get at least one compliment on it from a lady when I’m out. I love that shirt.”
But that doesn’t mean men are any good at taking those compliments in the moment. TongaGirl joined the thread to explain she’d once tried to tell a guy he was cute in an elevator, but he gave her a weird look. And men responded with the explanation that it can be hard to take compliments because it’s “ingrained in us to feel super weird to get compliments.” Others remarked that they weren’t sure how respond to them, if they should reciprocate the remark, downplay it or what.
Then, confirming what we all know to be true anecdotally when trying to tell a man he is appealing or smashing in any way, CptOblivion added this:
I got a compliment once, I had no idea how to react. I liked it, and I liked her, but it disarmed me so much that I just didn’t know what to do. From my reaction, she thought I was repulsed.
A few years ago, The Atlantic looked at why, exactly, men are so bad at being told nice things. One study from 1990 found that men typically think of compliments as a threat meant to embarrass or patronize them, Casey Quinlan wrote. What’s more, because men are used to being the ones doing the complimenting — acting, Quinlan writes, as “arbiters of someone’s attractiveness”—they might view a woman’s compliment as an unappealing, overly masculine act. Add to this the fact that because men tend to be valued for what they do and not how they look, drawing attention to their physical appearance can also feel emasculating.
Women, on the other hand, may avoid giving compliments because there’s an inherent risk in coming off as too forward—and it’s not worth attracting unwanted sexual attention just to tell a guy in the elevator he smells nice.
But as the Reddit thread attests—and as we move toward a world where men are slowly admitting to caring about how they look, while facing a stigma that they aren’t supposed to show it—it’s clear that at least men crave the same food, water, compliments, and occasional pair of shoes, that women do. (And sex—WE KNOW.)
With that in mind, men should consider getting over themselves and embracing these generous complimentary acts as nothing more than a nice remark. As for how to respond? Do just as women have been counseled to do since the dawn of time in accepting the numerous compliments (many unwanted) we’ve been fielding since birth. Don’t downplay it. Don’t aw-shucks it. Say, simply and graciously, “Thank you.”