Do I use exposure compensation? All the time! BUT, I never use the exposure compensation button. If you use the button, you must remember to "zero" it out afterwards or you may inadvertently introduce compensation into subsequent photos by mistake.
Using the analog meter in the viewfinder, I adjust exposure over or under for each shot based on the reflectivity of the scene thus introducing the "exposure compensation" I want. When using manual exposure mode I control the exposure, not the camera.
Much like you and your spot metering of a highlight, you control the exposure not the camera.
Tom From Beautiful Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia