Everyone loves the self-esteem boosting power of a genuine compliment, and women are no exception. Unfortunately, some of your compliments could be having just the opposite effect. What you think are words of praise might actually be coming off as insults, even despite your best intentions. Here are four pseudo-compliments to avoid.

1. “You’re cooler/prettier/nicer than my ex.”
The fact that you’re even comparing her to your ex is a red flag—even if it’s a flattering comparison. If you were truly over your past relationship, you wouldn’t even be thinking about the similarities or differences between the two women.

2. “You should do your hair like that all the time—it looks great.”
Are you a hair stylist? No? Then don’t tell her how to do her hair. Complimenting her on a particular hairstyle is fine, but phrasing it like this makes it seem like you don’t like how she looks all the other times.

3. “I love how low maintenance you are.”
She seems laid back and you like how chill she is. That’s great. But be careful labeling her low maintenance, especially if you’ve just started dating. She could feel like you think she doesn’t try when it comes to her appearance. Or it could be interpreted as you’re glad that you don’t have to put more effort into the relationship, and you’re thrilled that she doesn’t care! She cares.

4. “That’s your job title? Wow! Good for you!”
Of course you should take interest in her job and, if she kicks ass at work, obviously there’s nothing wrong with being impressed by her skills. But don’t sound so surprised when you find out that she’s successful. It comes off as sexist and patronizing. A better approach to showing how awesome you think it is would simply be to engage—ask her about what exactly she does.

Photo: iStock/BraunS