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Compliment Fishing

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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. It's also a good strategic move in Passive-Aggressive Kombat and Politeness Judo.

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. People with particularly bad cases of self-loathing may even prefer this type of response, confirming and mentally justifying their own negative perception of themself.


It can also set up a very effective Stealth Insult if the target only objects to one of the putdowns the compliment fisher makes, implying they think all the others are valid points. ("I'm a bad writer, I'm ugly, and nobody likes me!" "That's not true; your writing isn't bad.")

A Sub-Trope of Self-Deprecation, and the dishonest, manipulative little sister of the heroic form. Compare and contrast Suspiciously Specific Denial. If two people try this at once, it can lead to Outhumbling Each Other.

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, I understand if you think this one is a waste...

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



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In One Piece, Diamante is constantly fishing for compliments from Doflamingo to a ridiculous extent. Doflamingo goes along with it, possibly to better motivate Diamante.
  • In Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School: Side Despair, Gundham reassures everyone that his pet bear will only bite high-ranked demons. Sonia, who has a crush on Gundham, indignantly asks if he means that she's a demon of low rank. Of course, since both of them are perfectly human and just like to pretend otherwise, it's clear Gundham didn't mean that and she knows it.
  • In chapter 20 of Boarding School Juliet, Teria offers to teach Romeo to swim, although she obviously isn't good at swimming either, due to her young age. The expectation is that he will refuse and praise her for her compassion note , but instead Romeo took her offer at face value and asked if she was irresponsible. Cut to both of them struggling in the water.
    Romeo: [warmly] Teria... If you can't swim, then don't do it!

    Fan Works 
  • Scarlet Lady: While practicing together for the UMS3 tournament in "Gamer", Adrien compliments Marinette's skills while claiming that they only won thanks to her and that he's 'nothing compared to [her].' Rather than comforting him, Marinette responds that it honestly makes sense that he's not as good at co-op, as he's only ever played by himself and doesn't have any experience working with a partner.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Mean Girls, Regina mentions at the Plastics' lunch table that she needs to lose a few pounds. She then stares expectantly 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.
  • 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."

  • 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 a pigeon doing this.
  • Huckleberry Finn: "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 to force out compliments..."
  • The Joy Luck Club: A girl brings her oh-so-very American fiancé 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.
  • In John Ringo's Troy Rising, two characters have a discussion about how their respective cultures handle praise. The character from the USA tells the character from South America that their culture goes too far in praising themselves, deliberately doing things specifically to gain praise. The South American replies that American culture engages in self-deprecation specifically to have their audience provide even more praise, in effect fishing for compliments. Note that these descriptions may or may not apply to cultures in our world.
  • The Irregular at Magic High School:
    • Miyuki asks Tatsuya if a particular hairpin looks good on her. Being rather socially blunt, Tatsuya obliviously replies that there's a mirror close by.
    • Maya laments that she became too emotional during her Motive Rant, and Hayama comfortingly agrees that she was, but getting a bit overwrought was unavoidable. Maya pouts, implying that this was not what she wanted him to say.

    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 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."
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lwaxana Troi is flirting with an alien scientist and reminisces about how she "sparkled" in her youth. He's too distracted to reply, so she directly tells him what she's doing.
    "You see, that's called 'fishing for a compliment'. You're supposed to tell me I still sparkle."
  • Subverted and parodied in The Colbert Report on the "Formidable Opponent" segment (where Steve plays both parties in a debate). One version of him mentions that he needs to lose a few pounds, and his 'opponent' responds "yeah, you kinda do."


    Video Games 
  • The Lollipop Chainsaw character Juliet, according to Word of God, enjoys being told she's not fat. Hence her frequently saying that she is.

    Web Animation 

    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