Q: I thought women love compliments. How come mine never work?

A: Ah, yes. Women do love compliments. They’re great ways to begin conversations. We have egos, too. Knowing guys are into us makes us pretty ecstatic and open to chat. If you’re doling out praise, I encourage you to keep it up—just keep it classy. Please? It's important to know what she wants—and what she doesn't want. Because bad compliments are just… ugh.

The biggest pitfalls you’ll encounter, which will cause your compliment to literally fizzle before your very eyes:

Objectifying Us. Don’t tell a woman who’s caught your eye that she’s hot, sexy, fine, or any other various other forms of those cringe-worthy words. It's one of the worst things you can say to a woman (at the beginning, at least), and most of us hate it. It’s generic and hints you’re just looking for a hook-up, so we’ll probably be looking for a quick exit.

Coming Off Creepy. Think about it. Could what you say in any way sound stalkerish? Remember: you probably shouldn’t know tiny details about us before you ever say hello. So even if you have noticed us at the local coffee shop, don’t lead with how you know we like lattes in the morning and mochas in the afternoon. Other behavior that weirds us out? Complimenting body parts. It’s sexual. It’ll irk us.

Being Annoying. We know you’re charming, so feel free to dazzle us with a smart sense of humor. But… “Stay away anything on the obnoxious side,” says dating expert Julie Spira. “She won't look at you as boyfriend material if your jokes appear to be annoying, embarrassing, or insulting.” Compliment our knowledge of sports! Just don’t add “for a woman,” which is not funny.

So, what’s a no-fail complimenting strategy? Use your surroundings. Specifically, say you like something she’s wearing, or has with her, that shows her admire her taste. “Try complimenting the color of her dress, the cool feathered earrings she's wearing, or notice her fun boots,” says Spira. Bonus points if you connect the dots. Tell us how you just love the color of our shirt—it matches our eyes. Then just give us a big smile and introduce yourself.

Annnnd you’re in. See how easy that is?

About the Hot Girl: Claire Austen is a 20-something freelance writer, sports enthusiast, and polka-dot-lovin’ everygirl trying to bridge the gap between what men know about women and what women wish men knew. She gives smart, super-honest advice about your biggest dating and relationship conundrums.