Natasha’s question

You see a woman after you met her before and say: you are more beautiful than I remember. She should be pleased, right?

Or you say: you are smarter than I remember. Would she be pleased the same way? Or is there a difference and why?



No difference, because the meaning of the sentences depend entirely on context and tone. Either statement could be intended to be flattering or insulting.

"More beautiful" indicates that at least you thought she was SOMEWHAT beautiful before. Describing a person as beautiful at all already puts them on a good part of the curve.

"Smarter" doesn't indicate that you thought she contained any smartness to begin with, but you now realize she has some amount of smartness.

For whatever reason, we consider everyone to have some smartness, but not some physical beauty. Smartness is a continuum that begins with the dumbest person (even animals), while beauty is set to zero until it reaches some threshold.

Just a guess.

I think there may be a difference in terms of the nature of the perception. We aren't at all surprised that people immediately form an impression of someone's appearance, but equally we don't expect that impression to have been given a lot of consideration, and we know people have bad hair days. On the other hand, under most circumstances I don't think reasonable people form an immediate impression of how smart someone is--it is a bit subtler, and requires more evidence. So in some sense, when you say that someone is smarter than you remember them, you are implying that in the past their stupidity was sufficiently obvious to make an impression on you.

I agree with Finnsense--say "even" before "more" and "smarter," and it'll clear up any ambiguity.

Or you could be Gordon Tullock and say something like, "You're not as ugly as I remember," and "You're not as dumb as I thought."

because of time. conventional wisdom says you get uglier as you age. and your smarts don't change over time, so the perception is that you will have thought she was dumb in the beginning.

I'm amazed at the number of men (judging from the handles) who believe that they can somehow secure a proper emotional response through the tortured path of pure the pure logic of the statement.

This is the emotional response we're dealing with!

Rule: Never, ever, ever pay compliments that contain comparatives.

its the word "remember" that is the problem. if stated as "used to be" you are golden.

The words do carry different loads. Someone with an IQ of 95 can fairly be called smarter than someone with an IQ of 85, without being smart. "Beautiful" doesn't work that way: a 4.5 would not commonly be called more beautiful than a 3.5.

And there is a question of context. A woman can expect her beauty to be noted when she's standing around. Unless she's done something intelligent, the "smarter" compliment may seem backhanded, as though you're impressed she isn't drooling all over herself.

I think in the right context and with a better word, the compliment would be taken about the same way.

After she says something clever: "You're more brilliant than I remember."

My thoughts are similar to what one person mentioned above. If you haven't seen the woman in some years, there may be a fear that she is aging poorly. Saying you are hotter than before tells her that she is one of the women who has improved with age. (My favorite example is Sela Ward).

The remark about intellect begs the question from the woman: "So you thought I was a dumb a$$ before?".

"You're even more beautiful than I remember."

"You're even more intelligent than I remember."

Said like that, both are great.

Read the statement:

You "see" a woman after...

By looking you can obviously tell whether or not she is more beautiful or not. But can you tell if she is smarter? I don't think so. Now lets rephrase the statement:

You meet a women after you met her before and after having a long conversation with her you tell her she is smarter than what you remember.

I'm pretty sure she will be very pleased with your compliment.

Although I have to agree with the reader who said to never pay any compliments that involved comparatives. You are just as well by saying "You are so smart". First order stochastic dominance.

When you know a woman barely enough to remember what she looked like last time, complimenting her beauty is exactly as creepy as the average booze bar pickup line. It's doubly creepy and manipulative to pretend that the fact that you met her once before gives you some permission to be creepy. Finally, it's triply creepy if you are of "higher" status, as one poster suggested. Are we to say that the secretary should be flattered when the boss (married and ought to know better, or single with reason -- doesn't matter) pays daily compliments to the secretary's "long legs"?

Complimenting intelligence is fine.

And if you are hanging out with a woman who would prefer to have her beauty complimented by male strangers (married and ought to know better, or single with reason -- doesn't matter), rather than her intelligence, you probably both would do well to seek other distractions.

I'd say there are information asymmetries here, or perceived ones at least. The woman has the sense that an observer is best equipped to be a judge of physical beauty while she feels that she is the best judge of her own intellect.

For that reason observations on her physical appearance seem more valid to her than those on her intelligence.

I met a former lover after some years and I told her that she was even more beautiful then I remembered. Since she knew that I formally found her very attractive, she took it as a compliment.

Without the former context, I would just stick with you look beautiful tonight. Plus as an aside, when we fall in love without anther person, they become more beautiful, more attractive to us. So saying something like, you are more beautiful then I remember or I never noticed how beautiful your eyes are, implies a change in the relationship. A change the women may or may not want to hear. If she is attracted to you, she will view it as a compliment. If she is not attracted to you, she may still view it as a compliment. If she is repulsed by you, she will not take it as a compliment.

Telling someone that they are smarter then you remember is a mistake. It implies a former negative opinion plus it gives no sense of how low the former opinion was or what the current standard is. Better to comment that you did not realize that they were so versed in topic X. Acknowledgement of a surprise in the depth of knowledge on a topic is a compliment, surprise in general intelligence is not.

I recommend that you do not use comparative compliments like this with women you would meet on the street in NY, even if you do smile at them.

My eternally beautiful wife taught me the lesson about not giving compliments that include comparisons. No amount of working through the logic of such a compliment, as other commenters have, makes up for how such a compliment can be misinterpreted.

Learning this might have made me smarter than my wife remembers me being when we first started dating, which is good because I'm probably not better-looking than she remembers.

I think most people would perceive the negative in any evaluation of themselves.

However, these comparatives are still better than "You are not as unattractive as I remember" or "You are not as dim as I remember."

For a casual acquaintance, it's easy to deflect the negative implication (if one chooses) by saying, "My judgment was impaired (e.g., drunk, distracted by something in my life, my memory is fading with age)."

My suspicion: perhaps someone is running "Game" (in the PickupArtist sense) on Natasha, trying to neg her subtly to try to get her to compete and demonstrate her value to the guy.

First of all, 'you're smarter than I remember' is a pretty loaded statement. Aside from the analysis previously offered, it, or something similar, is frequently used as an insult.

So, 'you're more beautiful than I remember' wins, but there is still the possibility for sarcasm. 'You're even more beautiful than I remember' is better unless you adopt a really sarcastic tone. It should be welcomed by all but the most obnoxious persons, regardless of relative status, unless you're using it as a pretext to start an unwelcomed conversation.

For a woman who is not beautiful to begin with and is still not (or at least, who doesn't think she is), telling her she is more beautiful than you remember could be seen as insincere. So even that is not safe!

"You're smarter than I remember" is odd, as previous commenters note. I can think of only one good thing to say in return -- "you're more observant than I remember."

Let me second froginthewell's "pedestal" observation: to really judge someone else's intelligence--at least from casual observation, especially if you are making a fine comparative judgment--you should be *more intelligent* yourself; but beauty can be judged (from casual observation) by anyone, even someone ugly. So offering another person a delicate judgment about his/her intelligence, even if it is (at least mild) praise, is patronizing, implicitly setting yourself up as of superior intelligence (and the stupider you are, the more offended the subject of your judgment ought to be!). This background is absent when the subject is beauty.

What Finnsense said.

@9:14: The word "bright" is condescending. It is almost exclusively applied to women by men or to children by adults (or just to the younger). The implication is "smart ... given her/his inferior status."

I worked around David Mamet once upon a time. A vibrant memory was an acting skills class where the students tried to express the word Fu** in as many ways as they could to express a full range of emotions. Delivery, context, ethos and charisma can make all the difference.

The word "bright" is condescending.

Clearly someone who lives in an echo chamber of the thin-skinned. (And probably with a sense of being of "inferior status", whatever the heck that is.)

I know many bright people, male and female, young and old.

You need to get out more!

I am not thin-skinned at all, and the accusation makes little sense since you didn't call me bright. Or is this a different anonymous?

Any woman's response to either statement is best predicted by how attractive she finds the person saying it.

As a man, I would assume a man using those phrases in such a circumstance would be trying to manipulate the woman. Why don't women see it the same way?

of the top of my head... and i speak for myself (as a woman)...

it is easy to understand how beauty can be overlooked at times. "more beautiful" then means that you've just been reminded of my beauty or noticed something exceptionally beautiful about me, which to me doesn't really take away from my inherent beauty and pleases me that you would notice.

but i would never want my intellect to be overlooked or unnoticed. telling me that i am smarter than you remember seems to imply that my intellect was not present before. at least not enough to notice.

also there is an aspect of expectations. if you didn't expect me to be so beautiful, it doesn't bother me because in my own opinion i probably agree that i am not always so beautiful. but if you didn't expect me to be so smart, i have a problem with that. maybe it's the gender bias involved. women are beautiful, men are not. but both men and women can be smart. coming from a man, it can sound chauvinistic.

furthermore, imo, more beautiful and less beautiful are still varying degrees of beautiful. less beautiful does not imply ugly. both remain in the upper echelon of the category of attractiveness. but more smart and less smart is a wider range. less smart can imply not smart, or dumb. beautiful is exceptional, smart is merely positive. perhaps, "you are more of a genius that i remember" would be more parallel to the original statement re: beauty.

Anders nails it:

You are more beautiful every time I see you, and more intelligent and enchanting every time I speak with you.

Natural language is generally more fascinating than formal language. I have to agree with previous posters with regard to comparatives, and suggest that negative connotations of either sentiment can be shifted away from the subject with

I had forgotten how X you are.

This makes Kat's comment clearer.

maybe it depen on your feeling

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