Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Interpreting Male Compliments

When people change something about their appearance – their hairstyle, clothes, makeup, hair color, etc. – they often rely on the feedback that they get from others in deciding whether or not they themselves like the change. I hear people say all the time (after updating their look) “Yeah, I wasn’t so sure about it, but people seem to like it." Of course, this often goes unspoken, but in general people take others’ compliments at face value. This is the problem I want to address.

Let me start with a couple examples. A female coworker recently showed up at the office with short hair. Whereas previously it had been mid-back length, she’d cut it to be only a few inches long. It looked OK at best; but she looked significantly worse than she had with long hair. When she walked into our area of the office for the first time, the “feedback” started…
Guy 1: “Oh, wow you cut your hair – it looks great!”  
Guy 2: “Yeah, wow, looks good.” 
Guy 3: “You look much younger.”
(I didn’t contribute, because I’d run into her earlier in the day and after expressing my surprise at barely recognizing her, told her it looked “stylish” in an unenthusiastic tone.)

When she walked out of our area and out of earshot, we all looked at each other. Guy 1, who had previously always talked about how sexy this girl was, burst out immediately: “Maaann, it looks horrible! What did she do???” We all agreed.

Another time, a girl walked into the same area of our office wearing a new shirt, which was bright green. It drew attention, but it looked horrible. It didn't work with her complexion at all. Immediately, one guy – who is particularly attractive to most of the girls in the office – said “Nice shirt. Good color; green looks good on you.” I am sure she walked away thinking to herself “Wow, I guess green is my color.”

In the first example, obviously the intention behind the compliment was to make the cute girl feel good, or at least to avoid making her feel bad. This is fairly easy to recognize and understand. But something different is at work in the second example, and I've been recognizing it happening more and more in my daily life as I've come to realize what is going on: people respond positively to the things they notice, not to things that are positive. A person might see a friend and think “wow look at that new belt” because it really stands out, or “wow her hairstyle (or color) is completely different today.” But then, because it is so noticeable, they feel the need to acknowledge it. Once they've acknowledged it, the same phenomenon at work in the first example kicks in: they feel the need to make the person feel good about it, and an inaccurate compliment is the result. So in the end, “nice haircut” actually just means “I noticed your haircut.” And if you subscribe to the school of style that says "you should wear your clothes; your clothes shouldn't wear you," then you realize that this is more often a bad sign than a good one.

I've occasionally been given compliments like "you look good in grey." However, knowing what I do about wearing colors that compliment my complexion (I look OK in grey, but not great. I wear grey because it is an easy color to find in stores and doesn't look horrible on me), and recognizing that these compliments came from someone with the desire to make me feel good, I realize that what they really meant was "You look good," and "you wear a lot of grey." But the causal link between those two facts what purely in the eye of the beholder - or rather, the complimenter.

But the problem isn't only that people get inaccurate feedback when they wear or change things in extreme or otherwise noticeable ways. The problem is that when people change things in subtle-yet-powerful ways, they get no feedback whatsoever. The best changes more often than not draw no feedback, while the worst changes draw compliments. If you pay attention to others’ opinions, you’ll end up with a completely skewed opinion of what makes you look good.

The best compliments are those that are mistaken, or indefinite. I've had this happen to me several times. One time my receptionist told me “Andrew, you look great today! Did you change your hair?” I hadn't touched it. In fact, nothing was different about me that day except for my shirt. It happened to be one that I didn't normally wear, but which, in retrospect, perfectly complemented my complexion. Her compliment of my hair was actually a compliment of my shirt.

So pay attention when people give you general or indefinite compliments: “you look very… vibrant today,”  or “something looks different; I like it,” or “did you change your hair?” (even though you haven’t). If you reflect when you receive compliments like this, you can often decipher them to understand their source. And if you succeed, you can rely on your interpretation of that vague or mistaken compliment far more than you can rely on normal “compliments,” which are often little more than sugar-coated observations.


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55 comments:

  1. hey andrew! not for you to feel pressured but when is the book coming out?? please tell me is going to be available on amazon (or at least an online edition or something that can make it to south america hahah

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    1. I'll make a post about the book soon. Not long now...

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  2. what do you think about the comments given by close female friends? should i deal with those comments the same i would deal with comments by men or acquaintances?

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    1. They are different in some ways. The comment about me looking good in grey came from my mother, who loves me to death and thinks I look good in just about anything, so you can't completely trust them; but if you have a younger brother, for example, who never shies away from telling you when you look bad, it might be worth paying attention. A friend who is honest with you and you genuinely can trust might also be worth listening to if she gives you a strong opinion.

      In general it is the casual, involuntary, throw-away compliments that you need to be careful of. But think twice about the apparently thoughtful ones too.

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  3. what do you think about women reading manosphere blogs? ( http://thisistrouble.com/2014/02/07/5-reasons-women-should-read-manosphere-blogs/)
    some of them can be pretty offensive sometimes (http://www.returnofkings.com/ for example) but i cant figure out if the men writing them really mean it or is just some type of satire

    ps: when is the book coming out?

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    1. I often wonder if I should make a post about this... I've hesitated because I don't know how many readers even know or care what the "manosphere" is. But I definitely have an opinion and if enough readers are interested, I can easily get a post up about it.

      If this interests you, reply to this thread saying so.

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    2. I'm interested, Andrew!

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    3. I'm interested!!!

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    4. Hi, I'm also interested in a post about the manosphere!

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    5. Absolutely interested, yes.

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    6. Also interested!

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    7. just wanted to throw in a definite "I'm interested!" into the pile, too!

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    8. Also interested!

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    9. would love your take on it andrew. roosh's views disturb me

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    10. Sure, tell us your thoughts.

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    11. Omg you guys are major suck-ups. I am definitely not interested in the mansophere. Men will get what they are given.

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    12. The question isn't whether or not you are interested in the manosphere, it is whether or not you are interested to know what I think about the manosphere.

      Anyway, I'll write the post.

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    13. Just chiming in that I'd also be interested to hear your thoughts on the manosphere. I generally avoid it now because it seems to be much too extreme and there's a LOT of hatred toward women. I gravitate toward sites like MMSL, Notes From a Red Pill Girl, and especially RR!

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    14. I'd be interested in such a post as well.

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    15. Hmmm, It was because of the manosphere that I found your blog. I would be curious to hear your take on it. You blog is still mentioned.

      Practicallyperfect

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    16. Yes, I'm curious to hear what you think of it as well. Personally, I find the Manosphere sadly hilarious but it would be interesting to hear what a guy thinks.

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    17. YES!I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts.

      I spent the best part of last year coming to terms with the views of the manosphere; it gave me what (I hope) is a skewed perspective of the male view of women who are past the age of 25. My conclusion was that, much past 25 it is not possible to be sexually desirable. As a single 29 year old I really thought I might as well jump off a high bridge - that's not an exaggeration, facile as it my seem, I really battled to see any point continuing - as I don't want to be alone and unloved for the rest of my life. Sounds dramatic, but it's true. It's hard to bear that men can continue to age, and be viewed as attractive, wise and interesting until the end of their days by other men. Women, on the other hand (at least, in my interpretation of the manosphere's views), unless they are mothers, are really viewed by men as worth nothing at all - if they are no longer in their sexual prime of pre-30 years old.
      It's hard to get a balanced view because much of what these blogs were saying seemed undeniably true e.g. the media's pushing views against biological urges (which seems to be fading a bit now - perhaps due to economic downturn?) - e.g. being overweight is beautiful and healthy (it isn't), short hair on girls is sexy (it isn't), women can enjoy sleeping around as much as can men, without any negative impacts (they can't)…and so on. There didn't seem to be anyone out there offering anything that countered any of this rationally - men view you as worthy only if you are desirable; you can only be desirable pre-30; after that, you're fucked (unless you're a mother, which is your only way to have any sense of self-worth in the world after your sex appeal is gone because men only consider you as valuable if you are sexy…round and round the logic goes, inescapably!).

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    18. I'm Interested!!

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    19. Anon.. 8:33am that's bullshit insecurity.......If your 29 and worried about younger women getting the guys, you have big problems......Focus on your own happiness and the men will come. I'm over 30 (gasp)and I don't have problems getting men or worry about 25 year olds because I know I have a banging body (thanks to pilates and tabata) and I'm happy and confident.

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    20. Seriously, anon 8:33...I'm the elderly, decrepit age of 44 and could probably have 14 dates a week if I wanted. Since my divorce I've had one serious marriage offer and have had the best sex of my life. I do follow Andrew's recommendations for appearance and behavior religiously, and hey, they work. Ignore all that manosphere misogyny. Men who hate women aren't worth your time.

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    21. Anon... I honestly wouldn't be concerned- just date guys older. Even at 70 you can be the hot 70 year old if you're dating someone older. Keep things in perspective. Guys might think early 20's are attractive, yet the reality is if they're 40-50+ most don't want to date someone that young. Guys aren't pigs, most are looking for a real relationship when they settle down, the trophy wife thing is rare (and outdated).

      I think the manosphere has views like that because they're bitter they can't get women. ha! Everyone knows there's attractive ladies at every age.

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    22. Anon start exercising everyday, it will do wonders to your body and to your self-esteem (it has been scientifically proven ;)). I know plenty of women who got married at ~35, and if it helps, know that my mother got divorced (!) and then remarried at 47. You may not get a 10, but know that 10s don't make the best husbands because they always have other options, trust me (my dad's a 10, married a very attractive woman 17 years younger than him, and now he wants to divorce her). You never have complete information about life so why take the most harmful viewpoint to your emotional health? Stay positive.

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    23. I wanted to add to Anne's post up there: Older guys might think that the early 20s girls are hot, but that's certainly no guarantee that the girls will think the GUYS are hot, because generally they don't and find them creepy and weird and stick with the guys their own age. Hence the bitterness amongst the manosphere because they can't get the women who they THINK they deserve.

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    24. Anon at 12:58. I have been to a number of dating websites and I can CATEGORICALLY say that an overwhelming majority of men in their late 40s, 50s and 60s are very very very unatractive. Obseity being top of the list, followed closely by a lack of grooming and self care. I'm newly single at 47, yet suppossed to be trim, healthy, youthful, fun and visually attractive (all which I am because I understand the standards for older women looking to date, and work hard to meet them) for these very very unattractive men. To be fair, the manoshere does exhort men to improve, work out, get fit and tend to their looks but many embittered men selectively pick up those messages which they want to hear, while discarding the rest.

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    25. Yes, plenty of manosphere sites DO state that women who aren't available and attractive for a sexual relationship / aren't married mothers are useless.

      I am in no position to tell a man what he should be attracted to, nor can I argue with the fact that a 22 year old is hotter than a 36 year old. That said, I think it's worth acknowledging how messed up it is to consider an entire group of *human beings* to be useless, and to base their value entirely on their sexual availability.

      The men who write these things believe that women have no intrinsic value - no value beyond what is ascribed to them by how useful they are to men. This is a pretty warped way of thinking about other human beings. There are, of course, women who depersonalize men in this way as well, and both are equally destructive.

      By all means, be the best version of yourself that you can be. Work to make your man happy - I sure do. But for God's sake, men are not the sole arbiter of women's worth as people; and if they can't see that women are intrinsically valuable and worth knowing outside of a sexual relationship, I suspect that's a large part of their relationship difficulties.

      Sure, some women are bad people who aren't worth knowing, and sure, not all manosphere guys subscribe to the belief I outlined above. There are enough, however, who would say that I'm not worth knowing or befriending if I'm not going to sleep with them. That doesn't mean I'm worthless; that means that they're damaged.

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  4. Hi Andrew, yes I'm interested too.

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  5. Oh yes please, yours is one of the few sane and authentically masculine voices among blogs from men about women.

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  6. Love your blog! Just noticed a study about makeup's effect on appearance from Alex Jones, Ph.D. You may find it interesting:
    http://www.today.com/health/makeup-not-key-beauty-what-really-makes-us-more-attractive-1D80418580?cid=eml_tes_20150120

    Cheers~

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  7. Any advice for how to give direct feedback that is more honest, for e.g. in the short hair cut situation? I always struggle with this and most of the time just say say something like, "Oh you cut your hair! Must be nice to have a change like that." I'm not sure if there's a better way...

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  8. Andrew, would also like to hear your thoughts on like athol kay, TRP and RPW on reddit, rollo, dalrock, and whatever other red pill "famous" people that are out there! looking forward to your post

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  9. Nailing it as usual, Andrew. This is something I've noticed for a long time. I think it's particularly noticeable in the case of a dramatic haircut. People feel they have to acknowledge it because it's so obvious, but they don't know how to do so except with a compliment. I thought I looked good with short hair for a long time because of this -- thankfully, and thanks in part to your blog, I eventually came to my senses.

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  10. What about a compliment they give you in bed? For example, "you have a beautiful body," etc.

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  11. I've paid attention to this for a while, having taken a "course" to find my best colors and style. I notice that when I occasionally cheat and wear, say, a lavender scarf instead of my usual violet, I'll get the "your scarf looks great!" and I'll stop wearing that scarf. When I'm dressing right I get the occasional "you're pretty" or equivalent, and make a note to wear that combo again.

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  12. Andrew, what if the change is dramatic but in a good way? Lime getting really nice hair extentions, or seeing a friend after a long time and they have lost a lot of weight. How can you know these are genuine compliments?

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  13. So pretty much any detailed compliments cannot be trusted... Vague compliments are rare and there are too many variables when it comes to accurately decoding it. Instead of calling this post "Interpreting Male Compliments" it should be "Ignoring Male Compliments". Sounds like the "Stop Lying to Your Friends" post but in reverse.

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    1. Vague compliments do help. They are rare but that's because we usually don't make significant improvements to our appearance. I took good care of my appearance over winter break and am constantly receiving positive feedback like "you look great/radiant!" or "you're glowing!" - even by people I don't know (these will more often give detailed compliments).
      The most accurate compliment, though, is when people actually start being nicer towards you, smile more, and want to hang out with you more (guys start asking you out, etc.) If you notice this then you're definitely doing something right. Oh humans.... #superficiality

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  14. Look, I have to give my two cents. What kind of insecure woman actually cares if a guy tells her she look "younger" or stylish?

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    1. She cares if she is attracted to him.

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  15. The book ! the book! we want the book :)

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  16. Wait, so when I complement people I tell them if I actually really like something. If I don't like something I say nothing, or sidestep direct questions about it.

    Does no one else operate like this?

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  17. Hey Andrew .I'm having a new relationship these days .I wanna ask you for your advice on some stuff ? Can I contact you by this mail TheRulesRevisited@gmail.com ???

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  18. Ugly butterfaces and obese women don't have character flaws? Of course they do! Given a CHOICE, you would pick me, the beauty, every. single. time. And wouldn't give a damn about 'personality'. I don't have sex with butterfaced men or obese men. Why do you men?? BECAUSE OF YOUR OWN INSECURITES THAT YOU NEED TO GET OVER.

    I am starting a blog called 'The rules revamped'. Who made these rules? Men? I know.. silly me! Feminsim was a complete wash and ruined my reproductive years. WE BEAUTIES ARE HATED AND THWARTED BY LESS ATTRACTIVE WOMEN, AND SHUNNED BY MEN IN FAVOR OF ABUSE PIGS WHO DON'T EVEN DRESS WELL!

    Since these blogs say that men care nothing about my intelligence or career accomplishments, I just should have laid back (any other sex position is too much work for lazy women) and spread 'em. I mean, really.. according to all of you, laying back and spreading them gets me married, a $300,000 house,loved, 'cared for' I never have to work again, my MBA or three PHD's would mean nothing, I'm told I'm hot all the time by men.. oh, wait, fly in the ointment! You men admit to being so insecure as to not choose to MARRY a beautiful woman, because other men want me.. so, you stick to the endless millions of butterfaces and obese we see all over the northeast , midwest, northwest, and just about everywhere. THOSE ugly looking women are married. We could gain 600 lbs and not be that ugly. Fact. So what is a highly intelligent, 134 IQ, magna cum laude gorgeous buxom blonde to do???? BTW: As to your posts and responses from men claiming they want to and 'need to' and 'are naturally inclined to' protect a woman ?? Where ARE those men? Send one my way, because it is a fact that NO man 'protected me', no man thought it his duty, want, or responsibility to 'protect and care for' me.. but I see them constantly 'protecting' fat clinically obese, sleeveless wedding gowns (you can't have thought that looked good on a 300-400 lb body.,, yuck!) ALL THE FAT ASSES ON THAT NEW ATLANTA BRIDAL SHOW ARE GETTING MARRIED. THEY ARE OBESE, NOT MERELY FAT. While we, the beauties, sat alone in a hotel room, watching that disgusting show... remained dateless for years and, when finding a 'bf', he not only didn't protect us, he EXPECTED us to work and have a job and talked about how they 'loved' their 'first love' still.. a woman who weighed well over 300 lbs with a face to match. You men are crazy. Absolutely insane.

    Have you looked at people from the 1930's-1950's? EVERYone looked hot! Why? Because men had STANDARDS in who they would mate with, and they did NOT lower those standards for 'she has a great personality' or ' I stay because of the kids'. It is up to you men to stop fukking these fat ugly things, and they will be forced to change their appearance or stay celibate and childless.

    Can you just admit you lust after movie stars/playboy/women that look like me, but you MARRY the obese and plain faced with no fashion sense? which mean, by extension, you are physically turned on by these ugly women. Don't tell me 'i'm there for the kids'.. she was fat when you married her, and her face was unattractive when you fukked her and married her.

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    1. Maybe you're lonely because you're so mean.

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  19. This is a great observation about people and compliments, but I would like to add one distinction ... people who do not know you are usually giving a genuine compliment most of the time. They do not have as much incentive to lie. It is the people you see on a regular basis (friends, family, coworkers) who are accidentally leading you astray with their attempts to spare your feelings.

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  20. As a girl I don't quite agree that we take compliments at face value. When someone compliments me at least, I often interpret it critically and sometimes as something negative, partly because I understand that people compliment insincerely. For example, if a friend describes me as looking "curvy" or "feminine" I might think they're the fact that I'm overweight. If someone says my hair looks good long and it frames my face,I might think they mean that my face is to round or chubby and I need to cover it up. I guess my point is that in general girls are VERY critical of their own appearance and often think a lot about compliments they receive. I think we rarely take them at face value.

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  21. Andrew said: "When people change something about their appearance – their hairstyle, clothes, makeup, hair color, etc. – they often rely on the feedback that they get from others in deciding whether or not they themselves like the change."

    Well, that is ridiculous in my opinion. When I make a big change, I only do it after very careful consideration of how said alteration benefits me, or how much I'd enjoy it. Yes, my 8 year FwB's opinion counts for something, since he's the one I wish to stay attractive to in order to continue getting sex...but that's pretty much it.

    For example, he's one of the "3%" of men who absolutely adores short hair on women. He goes ga-ga over actresses like Emma Watson in her pixie cut, and truly thinks more women would look hotter with bobbed, pixied, or otherwise non-full length hairstyles. After discussing the pros and cons with him, and thinking of them for 2 weeks, I got my waist length blonde hair...which had been that way for over 10 years...cut into a pixie hairstyle. He went nuts when he saw it, huge grin on his face, and we had amazing, multiorgasmic sex that night. He could barely keep his hands off me!

    So far I've gotten positive compliments from about 85% of my coworkers and customers, neutral comments from 100% of my family, and negative comments from the remaining 15% of customers. But y'know what? Other people's opinions, whether "good" or "bad" don't really matter. It's *my* hair, and the important thing is that I love the freedom of having a style that never gets in my face, keeps me cool in the spring/summer, appeals greatly to my sex partner, never tangles or gets knotted, and saves me money on shampoos and conditioners. My hair was full of split ends, very frizzy, easily tangled regardless of being up or down, and shapeless when it was long. Now it is softer, bouncier, has no damage, and frames my face beautifully.

    So, yeah...those who let the masses dictate how they think and feel are giving strangers far too much control over their lives. If I now only appeal to "3%" of men (which seems too low, I think it's closer to 10%) then so be it. Nobody, man or woman, is obligated to find me attractive after all. To believe otherwise is to be severely entitled.

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