Many dating advice books and blogs suggest that complimenting a girl is one good way to break the ice and start a conversation. However, giving a compliment to someone you barely know or don’t know at all is rarely a good idea, and not so much because of the reasons mentioned elsewhere – i.e. lowering your status, putting a girl on a pedestal, etc… The main reason is that starting a conversation with a compliment doesn’t really help get the conversation going. In fact, complimenting a girl makes the conversation harder to continue.
Suppose you come up to a girl who is sitting at a cafe and reading, and you tell her “I just wanted to let you know that you are beautiful”. What can you really expect her to do and say in response, except smile and say “thank you?” You are not asking her anything that will make her think and give you a substantive answer, and you are not saying anything meaningful to get her thinking or talking. Also, if she is really that attractive, she surely has heard it a few (hundred) times before. Being yet another guy show tells her about how hot she is, is not going to put you in the kind of category of the guys that you want to be in as early as possible in her eyes – the guy who is different and (more) interesting than others. You are not saying anything she hasn’t heard before, so why would she react to it with anything other than “thank!” and go back to her book. This type of compliment will also immediately put you in a position of someone who is asking for something while “worshiping” her beauty way too soon, which will make many girls feel uncomfortable.
Instead of giving a girl a generic compliment in order to get her attention, try saying some more than just that. In the book example above, if the girl ends up reading for a while and you have a chance to sit next to her, casually exclaim at some point “Wow, I really envy you attention span. I don’t think I could focus on a book for this long unless it was truly fascinating.” You don’t even need to look at her or try to get her attention. If you sit close enough, you can just say that. If she acknowledges that she heard your comment in any way, she will either say “thanks” or she will confirm that the book is indeed interesting, or it’s isn’t but she has to read it for school / work anyway. At that point, you have to say something to follow up on that so that the exchange doesn’t die. Ask her what that book is, what it is about, why she is reading it, and perhaps share with her a great book that you recently read. And from there, you can randomly jump to any other subject – from where she is from and how often she has been in the area, to her other favorite spots to hang out, etc.