It’s Not How You Say It, But What You Say That Matters Most – Avoid Giving Backhanded Compliments

Mental Health Tips for a Wednesday.

Sometimes, it’s not how you say it, but literally, what you say that has the biggest impact.

Backhanded compliments are remarks which could be a compliment, or it could be understood as an insult.

Statements like
-You’re not a scientist, but I am sure you can figure it out.
-You’re no fitness model, but you look like you work out and try to stay in shape.
-I don’t care what others say about you. You’re alright in my book.
-Your hair looks so good straight, you should straighten it more often!

The statement “You’re no fitness model, but you look like you work out and try to stay in shape” can be considered a backhanded compliment because it contains both a compliment and an insult, and the insult is disguised as a compliment.

On one hand, the statement acknowledges that the person looks like they work out and try to stay in shape, which is a positive thing. However, it also implies that the person falls short of some ideal standard of fitness or attractiveness, represented by the concept of a “fitness model”.

By saying “you’re no fitness model”, the speaker is suggesting that the person doesn’t quite measure up to the ideal of what a fitness model should look like, despite their efforts to stay in shape. This undermines the initial compliment and can make the person feel like their efforts are not enough or that they are being judged against an unrealistic standard.

Overall, while the statement may not be intended to be hurtful, it can still be perceived as a backhanded compliment due to the mixed message it conveys.

Clearly, some backhanded compliments are mean-spirited, while others are said out of ignorance or lack of consideration before speaking. Sometimes, it’s helpful to consider the person’s intentions before choosing your response.

Here are five helpful ways to respond to backhanded compliments:

1. Ignore it.

Staying silent doesn’t mean you’re letting yourself get pushed around. In fact, saying nothing at all can be one of the best ways to avoid giving away your power. It sends a message that says, “I don’t value your opinion enough to justify it with a response. Silence also avoids an argument.

2. Say, “Thank you.”

There’s no need to justify your choices when someone hurls an insult, especially if your response isn’t likely to help. So rather than get into a debate about why the comment is hurtful, a simple thank you can be the best way to move forward.

3. Acknowledge the positive portion.

Feedback and criticism can be essential to improving your performance, but sugarcoating an insult with a compliment usually isn’t constructive. Acknowledge the positive portion of a backhanded compliment to show that passive-aggressive communication isn’t effective.

4. Address the insult head-on.

Backhanded compliments can damage relationships. So sometimes, it’s best to address the issue in a direct manner. Otherwise, the snarky comments might continue and the relationship could deteriorate. When you don’t want a hurtful comment to get in the way of your relationship, speak up.

5. Keep your sense of humor.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do, is not take yourself–or someone’s backhanded compliments–too seriously. The person who offers them may not know how to deal with their emotions or they may be trying to hurt you on purpose. Respond with a little humor, without getting snide.

How To Avoid Giving Backhanded Compliments

No matter who you are, it’s easy to accidentally let a backhanded compliment slip through your dialogue. Maybe it’s an overemphasis on a word like “actually,” or an accidental “but” after saying something nice, but either way, it’s annoying for the person on the receiving end. The Art of Manliness created the “Dinner Table Rule” to combat this problem.

The idea here is that if you’re not sure a compliment is backhanded, apply it to what you’d say about someone’s cooking. If it sounds inappropriate at the table, then it’s probably inappropriate as a compliment too. Here are a few of their examples:

-You’ve lost a lot of weight! You still have a ways to go, but keep at it! > The food was pretty good. You haven’t succeeded in making it truly delicious yet, but keep at it!

-I really like your site. Not all of the articles, but most of them. > I really enjoyed dinner. I didn’t care for the green beans and mashed potatoes, but the other stuff was good.

-That’s a really good college, for a state school. > This is a really good cake, for something made from a box.

-You’re pretty athletic, for a short chubby guy. > Your food was pretty good, for someone so new to cooking.

It’s a pretty simple way to check a compliment for any accidental wrongdoing. Beyond that, if you’re saying “actually” at any point in a compliment, you should probably hold your tongue.

I hope you find this article useful. I am here to maintain and enhance your mental health and well being while buying or selling real estate along our white sandy beaches and beautiful emerald/blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.