You’re Just So Direct! And other insults disguised as compliments

You’re Just So Direct! And other insults disguised as compliments


How often have you been hit with a backhanded compliment? Maybe you’re unsure – let me give you a good rule of thumb: if you’re not sure if you’re being complimented or insulted or if you feel a little HUH? about what was just said? That’s a backhanded compliment.

It’s a bit of praise with a side of insult.

I’ve fallen victim to this passive-aggressiveness way too many times, and before we continue, an important note: you are not responsible for how anyone else communicates. You can’t change it, actually, you can only change how you respond to it. If someone is giving you passive-aggressive insults hidden as compliments – that’s on THEM, not on YOU. Your only job is to respond with grace and get out of the situation – you can’t fix them.

That being said, if you recognize these phrases as something you’ve said before – stop it. Change your behavior and do better!

Some backhanded compliments to look out for:

You look great – have you lost weight?

Ugh – this one is rough because it implies the person looks better than they did at a heavier weight. It also does a bit of fat-shaming – have they complimented you before looking “thinner”? Why can’t the compliment just end at “you look great”?

Oh my goodness, you’re [insert age]! You look so young!

I was reading an article on the beauty industry and one of the issues they brought up is the idea that men can age and women can’t. Where’s the Botox for Harrison Ford?

I can’t believe you just had a kid! You look great.

Thank you, I didn’t know I didn’t look great when I was growing a literal human. Appreciate it!

You’re so brave to wear/do/say something like that!

Brave. Why brave? Because it looks horrible or it’s too shocking to do or say?

You’re just so direct.

As opposed to the passive-aggressive backhanded compliment you just gave?

There are plenty more – essentially, you’re looking for anything that feels a little weird, like not an actual compliment. When you’re hit with one of the above statements – or something that gives you that similar wet sweater gross vibes, here are a few quick things that you can do:

Don’t feel bad that you feel bad.

If you feel hurt by the comment, you feel hurt by the comment. You shouldn’t and don’t need to, make excuses for that person, or feel like you’ve done something wrong by feeling bad.

Say something if you want to.

You don’t have to awkwardly smile if someone says something that hurts your feelings! You are allowed to say something! It could be as simple as “Thanks” so you can move along – or you can tell them their comment felt hurtful. Remember to be assertive: When you said [the backhanded compliment] I felt [emotion]. You don’t want to say things that are full of blame, like “You always do this.” Keep it straightforward.

Say thank you and move on.

Another route you might want to try? Say thank you and move along. Sometimes those backhanded compliments are there for attention. And that attention isn’t on you – it’s definitely for the reaction and response. The less attention you give this moment, the better because you’re taking away the attention that’s being sought out.

More than any of these tips? Remember that you can’t change how anyone else communicates – just how you respond. If you give it snark and negative emotion back, all you’re going to do is create an argument.


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