Backhanded Compliments: What They Are and How To Respond

The backhanded compliment: the absolute epitome of passive aggression. Although it is difficult to define a backhanded compliment, you definitely know it when you hear it. Disguised by a friendly face or a warm tone of voice, a backhanded compliment packs all the same punch as an insult while still coming across as harmless or even pleasant. Do not be fooled by the sugar coating, backhanded compliments are hurtful, toxic, and rude and have no place in a healthy friendship or relationship.

Everyone has been on the receiving end of these catty remarks and the feeling of leaving a seemingly pleasant conversation with a pit in your stomach is an all too familiar experience for many people. “Your room would be so cute if it was a little neater!” “You would be so pretty if you lost a little weight!” “You are so good at makeup, you can barely see all your acne!” These are just a few examples of the types of remarks that fall under the category of a backhanded compliment. In the passive aggressive, backwards world of backhanded compliments, a lot is left unsaid and the person on the receiving end may be left feeling as though they are too sensitive, reading too far into things, or simply misinterpreting the true meaning of the compliment. When you receive a backhanded compliment, you know you don’t feel good about what has been said but it is hard to stand up for yourself or confront the issue due to the sneaky presentation of a remark that is masquerading itself as genuine praise.

Unfortunately, backhanded compliments are especially prevalent between girls. Boys typically are more straightforward with their thoughts and less likely to revert to catty passive aggression. This is particularly troubling due to the fact that girls should be standing up for each other, not tearing each other down. Many women experience their own levels of self-consciousness and feelings of inadequacy every single day, not to mention constant reminders from society that we should strive to be the “perfect woman” instead of simply loving ourselves for who we are. In order to combat this habitual state of self-criticism, it is up to girls to empower each other and to spread self-love and positivity instead of demeaning each other through rude and judgmental remarks. Just because an insult is disguised as a backhanded compliment does not mean that it is acceptable or appropriate. Before you dole out a backhanded compliment, think carefully about what you are saying, how it will be perceived, and how it will affect the person you are talking to. It is up to us to motivate each other to be our best selves, to love ourselves, and to support each other, not to tear each other down.