Compliment Fishing

They say, "I'm sorry the house is so messy," forcing you to respond, "No, not at all; it's looking beautiful." Actually, a better response would be, "No, not at all; I enjoy a little squalor."

Let's say you've written something. You know it's goodnote  but you still want to attract more feedback and compliments than you'd normally get.note  So, you go out of your way to call attention to how bad it isnote , tell everyone why they'd never want to see it, and, in extreme cases, wangst at length about how you're a miserable failure of a writer who deserves to die alone.note 

Then, just sit back and watch the sympathy and back-pats roll in. Of course, you can disparage the first ones as insincere to really get them rolling.

This is a common tactic of the Shrinking Violet - or, at least, the writers who make her say these things. Presumably they think it's endearing. Subtle Attention Whores also love this trope, as it lets them bask in pity-praise without having to directly toot their own horn.

This can backfire very badly for the compliment fisher if people respond by agreeing with them. ("It's ok, we love you even though you're a bad writer.") If someone does that on purpose, it's probably a form of Backhanded Compliment.

A Sub-Trope of Self-Deprecation, and the dishonest, manipulative little sister of the heroic form. Compare and contrast Suspiciously Specific Denial.

This is a pretty common Truth in Television.

By the way... You don't have to bother editing this page. I know you don't really want to. It's OK, there are much better pages on the wiki for you to spend your time with....

Compare Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?, this trope's creepy, Freudian sister.


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     Anime and Manga  


  • In Mean Girls, Regina mentions at the Plastics' lunch table that she needs to lose a few pounds. She then stares expectedly at Gretchen and Karen, who immediately start complimenting how skinny she is.
  • In Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, the Grim Reaper of all people starts fishing for compliments, clearly jealous of the praise B&T are heaping on Station, the Martian genius. At one point Death thoroughly Squicks the boys by trying to get them to compliment his ass.


  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Arthur Dent's "It was nothing really" doesn't get the reaction he had been expecting from Zaphod Beeblebrox.
  • In Squids Will Be Squids, one of the fables has pigeon doing that. She gets eaten, but really, she had it coming.
  • "Mary Jane she set at the head of the table, with Susan alongside of her, and said how bad the biscuits was and how ornery and tough the fried chicken was-and all that kind of rot, the way women always do for the force out compliments..." — Huckleberry Finn
  • The Joy Luck Club: A girl brings her oh-so-very American fiance home to meet her oh-so-very Chinese family. She forgot to brief him on the Chinese-mother tactic of bringing out their best dish garnished with lots of self-depreciation. He protests that her dish is delicious...
    Fiance: "It just needs a little sauce!" [Pours soy sauce all over the dish]
    Family: [Appalled silence]
  • In A Christmas Carol, Mrs. Cratchit is terribly nervous that her Christmas pudding won't be good enough, but her family tells her it's wonderful.
  • The Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Vanishing Point features a scene where a deformed-but-still-attractive Ingenue has a heart-to-heart with Fitz, the Doctor's companion and a Chivalrous Pervert. He accuses her of doing this, but she seems to genuinely mean what she's saying about herself:
    'No one would wish to. I am deformed. I am ugly.'
    'Are you fishing, here, by any chance?'
    She laughed at him. 'Fishing?'
    'For compliments, I mean,' Fitz said. 'Look, Vettul, if it helps, you're not ugly... I mean, you're...' He felt himself growing flustered.

     Live Action TV  

  • Father Ted: Mrs Doyle tells Ted his voice is gorgeous, and he plays it down, clearly loving it. When she asks him to sing something else and he obliges with Paris In The Spring, it backfires when she suddenly decides his version was "catastrophic".
  • In the Loop: Karen Clark jokes to Chad "you might be Secretary of State one day, young man!" Chad doesn't realise it's a joke and says "Don't say that if you don't mean it."
  • In the Friends episode "The One With Joey's New Girlfriend", Chandler confesses to the other friends that he has feelings for Kathy, and caps it off with, "I'm a horrible person." He then looks at the others expectantly, and upon getting no reaction, adds, "No, you're not, Chandler, we still love you, Chandler".
  • In the Community episode "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas", the study group are debating why Abed has chosen to give them certain toy characters in his Christmas fantasy dreamworld. Annie, who has been made a clockwork ballerina, suggests that he's just given them random characters, coyly adding that "it's not like I'm that thin and graceful... right?" Much to her dismay, Britta caustically suggests that she's instead been given that role because she's "fragile and tightly wound."


     Web Original  

    Western Animation 
  • In the Beetlejuice episode "Beauty And The Beetle," Lydia starts feeling self-conscious after seeing a series of beauty aid commercials on TV. She asks Beetlejuice "Am I ugly?" After skirting the issue with his usual wisecracks, B.J. finally assures Lydia "You're not even pretty ugly!"

     Real Life  

  • H P Lovecraft was forever deprecating his own work, usually in letters to his friends, but also in the submission letter he wrote the first time he submitted his work to a paying magazine! One cannot help feeling he was hoping to be contradicted... after all, if he really thought his ability was so low, why did he hire himself out rewriting other authors' works?