A single compliment about a woman's character or looks can do the trick, says Courtney Fea, MS, of Kansas State University.
"Simply giving someone one compliment is enough to make them feel better about themselves," Fea tells WebMD. Fea is presenting her findings in Los Angeles at the American Psychological Society's 17th Annual Convention.
Fea and colleagues studied 185 female college students at Kansas State University. The women were told that the study was about personality and appearance.
Each student was taken alone into a room where a female "evaluator" pretended to scrutinize the student's looks at length. The "evaluation" was a sham, but the students didn't know it.
Afterward, the "evaluator" asked the student about personal interests, such as favorite books and hobbies. Next, the "evaluator" gave the student a compliment. The compliments were scripted, but the students didn't know it.
One compliment was neutral: "Thank you for participating in this study."
Another addressed character: "You sound like a nice person." The third compliment focused on appearance: "You're a nice-looking person."
Lastly, each student went to another room to fill out questionnaires about mood and body image. The study's true purpose was revealed before the students left.