This content was first published on and should not be copied or reproduced.

Have you ever been around someone who seems to be fishing for compliments, subtly seeking a little validation for their achievements or how they look?

Or maybe you’ve found yourself in that same boat, craving some reassurance and a pat on the back from time to time. 

But have you ever wondered why we fish for compliments in the first place and how should you react when someone’s casting that line?

Ahead we explore this behaviour and how to handle it and respond…

What does fishing for compliments mean?

Let’s say you’re at a party, and someone walks up to you wearing a fabulous outfit. They say, “Ugh, I look like such a mess tonight, don’t I?”

Even though it’s clear they put effort into their appearance, they’re seeking reassurance from you in the form of a compliment. This is like casting a line into the sea of praise – they’re fishing for compliments.

We’ve all been guilty of it at some point or another, whether we realize it or not. It’s like baiting a hook with self-deprecation or insecurity, hoping to reel in some sweet, sweet validation.

Why? Because, let’s be real, hearing good things about ourselves can feel like a warm hug for our ego. 

But here’s the thing, if someone is constantly casting their line out there, people might start to see through the act and begin to question the sincerity behind their words.

And in the end, they come off looking desperate….

Signs someone is fishing for compliments

Sometimes it’s pretty clear when someone’s desperate for a compliment—obvious signs of fishing for compliments are when a person talks about how fantastic they look or boasts about their accomplishments.

Other times, it’s not as obvious and takes a bit more observation. They might say self-deprecating things (like the example we gave above) or play down their achievements just to get others to lift their spirits.

Here are some signs someone might be angling for a compliment:

– They often put themselves down, even when it’s not necessary, like, “I did okay on this project, but it could’ve been so much better.”

– They dismiss compliments or try to downplay them.

– They’re constantly seeking validation from others, saying things like, “I don’t know if I was smart enough to pass this test,” or “I think I look awful in this photo.”

– They compare themselves to others and often feel like they don’t measure up.

Why do people fish for compliments

Low Self-Esteem

One big reason people fish for compliments is low self-esteem issues. They might feel insecure about their abilities or how they look and turn to others for validation and reassurance. This can become a habit as they lean on outside sources to boost their confidence and self-worth.

People with low self-esteem may also have a negative self-image and believe they’re just not good enough. Comparing themselves to others and feeling inadequate can lead them to seek compliments as a pick-me-up.

Need Validation

Another reason is a strong desire for validation. They want to be recognized and appreciated for what they’ve done or who they are, and it can be disappointing or even hurtful when they don’t get positive feedback from others.

For others, their childhood experiences might be the cause of their need for validation. Sometimes, they may not have gotten enough positive reinforcement growing up, so they’re trying to find it in adulthood.

Others might be looking for validation to boost their confidence or feel more secure in their relationships.

Attention-Seeking Behavior

They may love being the center of attention and crave admiration, and use compliments from people as bait to reel in that attention.

This can actually signal deeper emotional issues, like feeling unfulfilled or lacking a sense of purpose in life.

Attention-seeking people might also exaggerate or even make up their accomplishments or qualities to get more attention and admiration from others.

Feelings of Inferiority

People who feel inferior to others often grapple with their own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. They suffer from an inferiority complex and frequently compare themselves to others, leading to a sense of not being “good enough.” To cope, some people fish for compliments as a way to prove their worth.


Some people fish for compliments because they’re egotistic. They tend to think mostly about themselves and their own wants and needs, believing they’re better or more important than others. This often stems from a distorted self-image, where they think the world revolves around them and their opinion is the only one that counts.


Narcissistic personality disorder is when someone has an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration.

People with narcissistic traits often suffer from chronic low-self esteem and fish for compliments because they need to be constantly reminded of their own greatness.

They use compliments as a tool to manipulate people to do things for them or to give them the attention they crave.

How to respond to people who fish for compliments

Be Honest And Genuine

When you’re around someone fishing for compliments, it’s important to remember that it’s not your job to inflate their ego with a fake compliment.

It can be tempting to just give in and offer the praise they’re looking for, but it’s crucial to be honest and give genuine compliments.

If you don’t really think they deserve the compliment, it’s better to give a sincere but neutral response. For instance, you could say something like, “I can tell you put a lot of effort into that,” rather than offering empty praise.

On the other hand, if you genuinely believe the person deserves recognition, be specific and detailed in your compliments.

Instead of just saying “good job,” explain what you liked about their work or actions. This shows that you’re paying attention and that your praise is heartfelt.

Offer Constructive Feedback

Another way to respond to someone fishing for compliments is to give constructive feedback. This can be particularly helpful if the person is genuinely seeking ways to improve.

Instead of just offering praise, you can point out areas where they could grow or improve.

When giving constructive feedback, be specific and direct. Rather than simply saying, “you could do better,” explain what exactly they could work on and offer suggestions for how to do so.

This shows that you’re invested in their growth and development.

Encourage Self-Reflection

Another approach to dealing with someone fishing for compliments is to promote self-reflection. Instead of simply offering praise or awkward responses, ask questions that encourage the person to think about their own actions and motivations.

For example, you could ask, “What motivated you to pursue this project?” or “What do you think you could have done differently?”

By posing these types of questions, you’re helping the person to think more deeply about their actions and develop a stronger sense of self-awareness.

Be Understanding

If someone you know is fishing for compliments, try responding with genuine kindness and understanding. Acknowledge the effort they put into something, or share a memory you have together that highlights something they did well.

Showing empathy and understanding can help them build their confidence in a more constructive way and also create a sense of connection between the two of you.

Fishing Compliments: Understanding & Responding

 People fish for compliments for various reasons, like needing a self-esteem boost or even trying to manipulate others. 

Just remember, when you come across someone fishing for compliments, be honest and genuine.

Don’t play into their game with fake praise, but steer the conversation toward a more meaningful topic.

And hey, if you can give them authentic compliments that help boost their confidence, that’s awesome too!

At the end of the day, we all have our insecurities and need a little validation from time to time.

This content was first published on and should not be copied or reproduced.
This site contains product affiliate links. We may receive a commission if you make a purchase after clicking one of these links. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *