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The UK's attitudes to compliments
Revealed

Compliment Etiquette

Body confidence and positivity has come a long way in the last decade, however, as a nation famed for its self deprecation has our ability to accept compliments come along for the ride? The team at JD Williams wanted to find out why we can struggle to accept a compliment and just what impact one can have. We surveyed 2,000 men and women from across the nation to find the answer. Compliments don’t always hit the mark, however, so we also looked at how and where people prefer to be complimented, by whom, and why they might even turn down compliments from time to time.

You look happy

was voted the nation's favourite compliment

52%

of women reject compliments when given

45%

of people have rejected a compliment

The Top Compliments
for Men & Women

Whilst well intentioned, giving compliments can be actually be a bit of a social minefield, so we set out to find just how men and women like to be praised.

What compliments do we like receiving?

As the data shows, people on average like being told they “look happy” over all other compliments. This does vary by gender, however, with men preferring to be told they’re intelligent. Surprisingly, men are slightly more likely than women to prefer being told they “look good for their age”, whereas women prefer to receive comments about how young they look. Style was deemed to be the least important compliment on average across genders.

What compliments make people feel uncomfortable?

Some topics and compliments can make people feel uncomfortable, however, so we also surveyed respondents on which areas you’re probably best steering clear of to avoid embarrassment. Interestingly, both men and women included comments about weight loss and partners in their top three most uncomfortable compliments to receive.

When Good Compliments Go Bad

With nearly one in two Brits saying they’ve rejected a compliment in the past, it’s no surprise that some well-intentioned comments can go down the wrong way. Interestingly, more than half of the people surveyed (56%) said they’ve felt embarrassed when they receive a compliment, with over six in ten women reporting feelings of embarrassment. Other top reasons for rejecting compliments include not agreeing with them (42%) and a desire to avoid drawing attention to oneself (52%).

45%

of people surveyed said that a compliment had made them feel uncomfortable.

What compliments do we like receiving?

Avoiding or downright rejecting a compliment we don’t agree with can always be a little awkward, especially if it’s about our style or outfit, so we asked respondents what their “go-to” response was to avoid any awkward situations:

42%
say "I've had [this item of clothing] for years

1 in 10
(13%) men say "they didn't have anything else to wear"

1 in 5
women (19%) use the "I got it in the sale" excuse

42%
say "I've had [this item of clothing] for years

Who do we prefer receiving
compliments from?

Receiving a compliment is (usually) a great way to brighten your day, but it can come off a little awkward in some situations, perhaps because of the person paying the compliment. With that in mind, we asked respondents who they most like receiving compliments from:

As might have been expected, compliments from friends are best received, with three quarters of all respondents choosing this option. What’s interesting, however, is that women place more value on compliments from their children, partner and family members, whereas men prefer to be complimented by strangers and work colleagues.

Compliments: Where and How?

Finally, we asked Brits where and how they most like to give a compliment, and the results were refreshing! In an age of Instagram followings and ‘chasing likes’, “face-to-face” was still voted as the best way to give a compliment, with 58% of people saying they’d rather pay a compliment in real life. 20% of people said they’d be equally as likely to compliment someone on social media or in real life, whereas 7% of people said they’d pay compliments on social media alone. The reasons why people would pay a compliment over social media rather than in person were also interesting:

41%

said it's embarassing to compliment someone to their face

41%

said they can take their time to think up a good compliment if they write it

32%

said it's quicker to compliment via social media

Women share their
thoughts on compliments
We spoke to a group of women on how it feels to receive compliments. Take a look at the video below for more info.
Who do we prefer receiving
compliments from?
Receiving a compliment is (usually) a great way to brighten your day, but it can come off a little awkward in some situations, perhaps because of the person paying the compliment. With that in mind, we asked respondents who they most like receiving compliments from:
As might have been expected, compliments from friends are best received, with three quarters of all respondents choosing this option. What’s interesting, however, is that women place more value on compliments from their children, partner and family members, whereas men prefer to be complimented by strangers and work colleagues.
Who's paying the
compliment
National Average
Male
Female
Compliments: Where and How?
Finally, we asked Brits where and how they most like to give a compliment, and the results were refreshing! In an age of Instagram followings and ‘chasing likes’, “face-to-face” was still voted as the best way to give a compliment, with 58% of people saying they’d rather pay a compliment in real life.

20% of people said they’d be equally as likely to compliment someone on social media or in real life, whereas 7% of people said they’d pay compliments on social media alone. The reasons why people would pay a compliment over social media rather than in person were also interesting:

41%

said it's embarassing to compliment someone to their face

41%

said they can take their time to think up a good compliment if they write it

32%

said it's quicker to compliment via social media

Women share their
thoughts on compliments
We spoke to a group of women on how it feels to receive compliments.
Take a look at the video below for more info.
What we think

Suzi Burns, Head of Consumer PR for JD Williams says:

Attitudes to compliments is an interesting area to explore, as most people’s reactions to them are subconscious. However, as a whole, women generally feel uncomfortable accepting a compliment which is disheartening, as is how many women would describe themselves as ‘insecure’ (20%). If we as a brand can help them feel confident in what they wear, for example, this may in turn help women feel more comfortable about accepting compliments when offered.

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