It was actually something I almost wrote Thursday when editing the newsletter, but decided it was not necessary. But then I got a letter today (also added) which convinced me it was.
Update: one of the many excellent comments:
I am no longer a young man according to the calendar. At 65 my spirit seems to think I am 21.
There was a time I was unable to give a compliment to a member of the fairer sex for fear of the very thing being discussed here. Problem was I always interpreted it as personal rejection, not a normal response to genuine appreciation of beauty.
I now know both are wrong. As Eolake has pointed out the answer lies in method of delivery. A more indirect compliment is easier for American women to accept. I surmise they all want complements but are conditioned to question the authenticity of them.
A case in point. Several months ago I was standing in line at the bank waiting for a teller to be available. A young girl about 6 was playing tag or something with a young boy and as she ran under the guide rope she tripped and fell at my feet after hitting headlong into my knees. She immediately started crying and I bent and picked her up putting her on her feet. The crying continued but softened some. About this time her mother got to us and took the little girl by the hand. She told her daughter to thank the nice man for helping her up. Through soft sobs the girl said thank you. I said your welcome. Then I added you don't want to cry anymore. You are a beautiful young lady just like your mommy and crying makes funny lines on your face. That got me a slight smile and I said that's better now you are just as pretty as your mommy is. She looked up at her mother and they smiled at each other.
They returned to their place in line after "mommy" and I exchanged smiles and a little thank you was offered.
A couple weeks later standing in the same line the woman I now know as Judy left her place in line and came back to where I was. She again thanked me for my help. I told her it was the least I could do for two such lovely ladies. Her smile warmed my soul.
So now I have a friend in the bank line whenever we happen to be there at the same time.
A friendly smile and a soft compliment is something that will more often than not get at least a smile in return.
Benjamin said, in part:
I've found that giving a compliment in the middle of a broader conversation, matter-of-fact, withough breaking stride, helps. Removing the implied expectation that she immediately respond takes away the awkward moment.
I find that very interesting. It is true that a big part of the problem for the receiver is how to respond to a compliment. "Thanks" will usually do it, but most people don't think about that, they feel pressured to join with a comment on the subject, and they can't, because the subject is themselves!
So, maybe: "I'm buying flowers for my sister. She's a beautiful woman like yourself, what do you think would be a fitting flower for a birthday present?"