Is Sweetness Underrated?

Stephen Hussey

You watch the cliché rom-coms and sitcoms.

They tell you to be witty, urbane, “sassy”, sophisticated. And that’s what everyone wants to portray on their profile on Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, Grab-a-mate, Blah-bar (Ok, I made up those last two up).

What hardly anyone does in conversation pay an actual memorable compliment.

  • “I’m impressed.”
  • “I love that you read xyz!”
  • “Wow. Rarely meet people who are so interesting.”

And this doesn’t just for for online dating. It’s also lacking in many flesh-and-blood conversations. Both men and women defer to trying to look impressive (through their career, fancy degree, social status) instead of making a real connection.

One reason we avoid being genuine in our compliments is because we’re scared to put ourselves on the line. And yet, there is this weird phenomenon: we tend to like people who actually see something special about us.

Unless you have low self-esteem, in which case, it’s time to build up your core confidence. Or you like “bad boys/assholes/etc.” (if you’re over 21 and still say find yourself saying things like this, you have work to do).

But for the emotionally healthy among us, it always lodges in our brain when someone gives a moment of recognition for our achievements, notices a cute quirk of personality, or praises our unique style.

It costs nothing. It makes you more memorable. And you can still be cool and in control afterwards. (Fact: nothing actually looks cooler than a confident compliment).

If I think of the moments I remember on dates, it’s always some moment where you peek through the facade and see someone’s warmth. The polite gesture when someone looks out for your comfort. The kind word about the shirt you’re wearing, real laughter at the joke you made, the encouragement and support of your goals and thoughts.

“What if I put myself on the line and it isn’t appreciated though?” 

Then screw them. No second date. Stop texting. Done.

My approach is always simple: I only want to hang around the people who “get it”. Whether it be my nerdy interests, my curiosities, the importance of kindness and generosity, being a good listener, positivity, supportiveness.

I lead with the energy I want, and dance gradually away from the people who don’t give it back. As the economist Bryan Caplan has observed, a happy life can be one where you create your own beautiful bubble.

So yes, if sweetness matters to you (as it clearly does to me), put it out there early. Be generous with giving it, but ruthless about moving on from people who don’t respond in kind. You’ll soon see if someone is willing to give it in return.


As I write this working in a coffee shop for one of the first times since COVID, I re-discover the pleasures of overhearing conversation – in this case it’s one that couldn’t be more pertinent.

“The coffee’s gorgeous” one of the female patrons says.

“Just like you, dear”, says the (also female) owner.

“Oh…wow, that’s so kind of you. (gushing) Thank you so much”.

Yes. Sweetness is underrated.


Want to know the words that make you attractive in anyone’s eyes? Download the free guide at

For more updates follow Stephen @stephenhhussey

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