If You Master the Art of Compliments, Then You Master Romance

Malinda Fusco

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Romantics have used language to woo lovers since the beginning of time.

Think Shakespeare, Yeats, and Cummings. These people were masters of the art of poetry and poetic romance. And one thing is certain: poets aren’t lazy when it comes to words and love.

People say “I love you” and think they nailed the “words of affirmation” love language. Well, they didn’t. We’ll talk about why in a moment, but first, what are love languages?

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, love languages are the ways we best feel loved. He wrote a book on it (which changed my view of love and romance), but here’s the short of it…There are five “love languages” in total: words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, receiving gifts, and quality time. How people feel loved and appreciated is specific to each person.

We’re going to talk about the love language of poets and romantics worldwide: words of affirmation.

Words of affirmation is when your partner, lover, etc., feels loved through words. Like when you tell them how much you adore them or how proud of them you are. Seems simple, right? That’s the problem. We put less effort into things that seem easy. That’s why words of affirmation is one of the most neglected love languages.

Now, words of affirmation isn’t my love language, but as someone who taught Language Arts for years, I know a thing or two about words. Plus, my boyfriend is a words of affirmation junkie, and let me tell you: “I love you” only goes so far. Granted, I say it, but it’s not the only thing I say to express my adoration. It’s usually my last go to if I’m really trying to show him some love.

It’s like Robin Williams said in The Dead Poet’s Society:

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys — to woo women — and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.”

Just as we should avoid “very,” we need to avoid empty proclamations of love! If your partner’s love language is words of affirmation, this is especially important. We are intelligent, passionate human beings. So it’s fair to say that we can express our admiration in intelligent, passionate ways.

Let’s examine how you can master expressing love verbally by using three techniques: using better adjectives, narrowing your focus, and being consistent.

Use better adjectives.

Adjectives will make or break expressing your love.

For example, “You look good” is a nice thing to say to someone, right? Well, you know what else looks good? Clean windows. Drapes. Hanging pictures perfectly level on a white wall. Good is not the best adjective to describe your stunning, breathtaking partner.

There is a monumental difference between “You look good,” and “You look breathtaking” or “You look stunning.” As an ex-English teacher, weak adjectives are one of my pet peeves.

I once did a workshop on boosting credibility by using better adjectives. Meaning, adjectives that are relevant and make your piece sound professional. For instance, imagine you’re writing about robots, and you say, “This robot has new developments that improve functionality.” That’s weak. Do you see why? “New” can be used nearly anywhere. Be more precise! “This robot has innovative developments that improve functionality.” Ten times better. But it’s not just because you used a fancy word. It’s because of something called “connotation,” and innovative has more of a scientific connotation than new.

Connotations are “an idea or feeling that a word invokes in addition to its literal or primary meaning.” Connotations help set the tone and establish credibility. This is especially important for technical writing, however it applies nearly everywhere. Especially in love.

Do you want to sound credible when you tell your partner you love them? Of course you do. You want to sound like you’re feeling the emotions you’re trying to convey verbally. And after all, who better to confess their undying love than you?

Narrow your focus.

Okay, so you’re using better adjectives. Excellent. However, it’s not perfect yet. Stunning is a nice compliment, but lets put some more thought into it, yeah? After all, this is a love language. We need to seduce them with words.

So, don’t stop at stunning. What about them is stunning? Narrow your focus and be specific. 

Being specific and detailed shows them you’re paying attention. We put our attention on things that are important to us. It’s natural — it’s how our brain works. Think about driving. You aren’t paying attention to everything. It’s selective. In fact, researchers call it selective attention. In layman’s terms, we filter out the garbage. And your partner ranks way higher than garbage. Your partner is worthy of your engagement and attention.

Have you ever noticed how someone reacts when you notice something small and new about them? There’s a reason that women like it when people notice that new haircut or blouse. It’s because you’re paying attention. Instead of filtering out that information and discarding it, you’ve latched onto it. There’s no higher compliment than that. So let’s see how we can translate that into wooing our partner.

Don’t stop at stunning. What about them is stunning? They’re stunning as a whole, yes, but we need to engage and narrow the focus.

You have two options here. Option 1: add on the details. Option 2: enhance the original compliment.

Adding it on looks something like: “You look stunning. I love your smile.” See? We tagged it on at the end. We’ve told them exactly what we find stunning.

Enhancing the original compliment looks like this: “Your smile is stunning.” We clarified what we find stunning.

Be consistent.

Love and inconsistency do not go well together.

Consistency is essential for most things in life, like keeping a clean house, job performance, and pursuing goals. It’s the same for romance. If you’re trying to woo a lover (and if you have a lover, you should be trying to woo them constantly — but that’s for another article), then you can’t tell them, “Your smile is stunning” and not offer another compliment until Thanksgiving.

We need consistency, folks. So you’ll need to bring that creative genius to your compliment game frequently if you’re to master the words of affirmation love language. I would recommend daily. It’s that simple and that difficult.

This Isn’t a Lovers-Only Skill

Mastering this skill isn’t only useful if you have a lover or partner. There are other people in your life that you love. Parents. Siblings. Friends. Children. Showing people that you love and care about them is essential for nurturing relationships.

My dad’s a hard worker. I often let him know how much I appreciate him, especially when he comes over to my house to help me with handy things I’m horrible at (like fixing a pantry door). When he helped me with that, I told him, “I value you taking time to help me with this.” I didn’t just say thanks. I didn’t just say I appreciated it. I told him why. And you know what? He grinned like a kid at Christmas.

So try it out with some compliments you’d typically give to your mom, dad, or anyone else you care about.

Drawing a Blank on Compliments?

I’ll admit, when you start these techniques, it can feel weird. After all, as a society, we’ve become accustomed to lazy language. It’s not your fault, and it doesn’t mean you’re not smart. What it means is you need to prepare a little.

So, the solution? Come up with your words of affirmation ahead of time. Doing this eliminates a lot of the pressure in the moment. Instead, take five minutes in the morning to come up with one detailed compliment. At some point during the day, tell it to your loved one. They don’t have to know you’ve been prepping it. They can think you came up with it on the fly. And with practice, you’ll be “drawing blanks” far less.

The Takeaway

Our partners and crushes deserve to be romanced. So, do better than “I love you.” Master words of affirmation in three steps: use better adjectives, narrow your focus, and be consistent.

  • When using better adjectives, consider the connotation of the words you use.
  • When narrowing your focus, be specific about your compliments by adding on or enhancing.
  • Be sure to consistently show your partner some love — daily is most effective.

If you do that, your loved ones will notice, appreciate it, and return the love.

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