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What do you do?
When someone insults you, but disguises it as a compliment, how do you respond? Those kinds of comments are what’s known as backhanded compliments, and it’s not usually intentional (but often it is).
Today is National Compliment Day, so it’s the perfect time to discuss what to do with backhanded compliments. (Here’s how to respond to legitimate compliments without feeling gawky.)
Some people are just socially awkward. They don’t mean to sound snarky; they simply don’t know how to deliver a compliment. Chances are, they don’t know how to receive one, either. Yet at other times, the spiteful comment is entirely intentional. That person may act innocent, but their rudeness still hurts.
“You are really smart for such a pretty woman.”
“You got the job?! Congratulations! I’m so surprised!”
“You look beautiful today.”
“I wish I was as cool with clutter as you are.”
You could write your own list of these kinds of commendations, couldn’t you? We’ve all heard them; in fact, we’ve all said them.
And they sting.
So, how do you respond to backhanded compliments?
There are five tried-and-true methods for handling snarky comments. Choose your weapon!
1. Just ignore it.
Give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they meant no harm. Or maybe they did. Not responding doesn’t mean you’re giving up your power. It’s actually more powerful, because your silence is saying, “Your insult means so little to me that I won’t even acknowledge it.”
Answering the insult may come across as defending yourself, as though you actually think there is some validity to their comment.
Usually when people offer up insults—whether disguised or not—they are looking for attention. Don’t let them push your buttons.
2. Be gracious.
Saying “thank you” takes the wind right out of their sails. Getting into a debate is probably not going to advance your cause anyway. Again, assuming the best is best. And a positive attitude is contagious.
3. Acknowledge the positive.
Responding to an insult with another insult is not productive. Show your own class by responding to the positive part of the backhanded compliment with kindness. Consider it your good deed for the day.
4. Meet it head-on.
Especially when you don’t think any harm was meant, say, “Thank you for the compliment, but saying that today I look beautiful implies you don’t think I usually am. Is that what you meant to say?” Keep your tone non-combative, and gently let her know that you recognize passive-aggressive behavior and that it won’t work with you.
5. Keep your sense of humor.
A backhanded compliment says more about the person speaking than it does about you. Jealousy, insecurity, or anger can come out in a hurtful manner, but that doesn’t mean you have to be hurt. Simply decide not to be offended. How you respond to hurtful words is a choice. Don’t lower yourself by reacting in a knee-jerk fashion. Laugh it off.
Something I drilled into my kids applies here. When someone had done or said something hurtful to them, I always reminded them to remember how it felt and be sure not to repeat their offense.
How do you respond to backhanded compliments? Tell me in the comments.