How to Avoid Giving Backhanded Compliments

Giving a backhanded compliment is an insult disguised as praise. It’s like saying “I don’t like you” but in such a way that makes it sound like something positive. This can be hard to tell apart from the user, which leads them to believe you’re giving sincere compliments when your intentions are clearly not kind. Here are some ways users can avoid giving backhanded compliments and keep themselves safe..

“Backhanded compliments are not appreciated and can cause the person to feel embarrassed.” It is important to avoid giving backhanded compliments. Read more in detail here: backhanded compliment examples.

Vintage Man in Tuxedo Smiling.

My buddy told me about a compliment she got from a coworker the other day. “Bridget, you look like you’ve dropped a lot of weight!” he said. You’ve got a long way to go, but keep going!”

The coworker definitely meant for the statement to come across as complimenting, but it had the exact opposite impact. “You’re still big,” my pal heard instead of “Congratulations on the weight reduction!”

Bridget had received a “backhanded compliment,” as the phrase goes. It’s a rose with a thorn, a touch of praise mingled with an insult. I asked AoM readers on Twitter for instances of backhanded compliments in order to give you a better idea of what they look like. They came up with a list that was both humorous and embarrassing:

  • I’d date the heaviest man I could find.
  • For a public institution, that is an excellent college.
  • For a small, obese man, you’re very athletic.
  • Many people dislike your sense of humor, but I think you’re hilarious.
  • What a fantastic image! You must have a wonderful camera!
  • You have a great command of the English language! [asked a black guy] ]
  • On obese males, cardigans usually look horrible.
  • You have a great head. When did you first notice that you were losing your hair?
  • I like listening to you speak; it’s unusual to hear such a camp homosexual voice nowadays.
  • Imagine how good you’ll be at skating if you remove all that weight.
  • You’re no longer as uncomfortable as you once were.
  • Your paintings are excellent. [When you add “really” to almost any praise, you’ve entered backhanded terrain.]

Those who give backhanded compliments frequently aren’t aware that they’re doing it; they mean well and believe they’re delivering genuine appreciation. However, since our brains are wired to concentrate on the bad, the first complement is inevitably overshadowed by the backhanded smack. A backhanded remark seems more like an insult than a compliment.

Compliments are a terrific method to boost other people’s confidence and improve your relationship with them. You’d be better off not opening your mouth at all if you get it incorrect. So, below, you’ll discover an explanation for why we’re inclined to give backhanded compliments, as well as a simple test to see whether you’re ready to do so.

People Offer Backhanded Compliments for a Reason.

Backhanded compliments: what’s the psychology behind them? I’ve received several of them myself, so I’ve thought about why. I believe the explanation has something to do with our never-ending need to seem cool, our nervousness about our own standing, and the opportunity to indirectly offend someone.

The Willingness to Be Cool

We get messages from AoM readers all around the globe, and it’s been fascinating to see the variances in men’s expressions in various nations.


One thing I’ve seen is how compliments are given by readers from various cultures. Letters from Americans often begin with the following:

“I’ve been following your blog for a while and just wanted to say that I truly like most of it.” I don’t agree with all of the articles, but many of them appeal to me.”

Letters from other regions of the globe, particularly Latin America, where males are more openly effusive, are often among the loveliest we get. They begin with something along these lines:

“I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now, and I just wanted to express my admiration for it. It’s really transformed my life, and I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done.”

The first sort of letter makes me laugh out loud and shake my head in disbelief. Not because I expect everyone to like all of our posts, but because I can’t imagine anybody expecting me to! Of course, I understand that not everything we publish will appeal to everyone, and I would never presume that just because someone enjoyed AoM, they liked everything about it. I believe that the urge to include such a disclaimer stems from a desire to seem cool, and no one is more preoccupied with coolness than Americans. We don’t like to show our full support for anything — to indicate that we’re all-in. That we’ve succumbed to the Kool-Aid and are no longer our own people. Standing a bit farther back flatters our image as critical free thinkers.

However, admiring one aspect of someone does not imply that you like everything about them, and they are unlikely to interpret your praise as a blanket endorsement. Plus, it’s occasionally OK to express unbridled respect for someone. I’m a big fan of Theodore Roosevelt; that doesn’t mean I agree with everything he says, but generally, he’s a great guy.

Fear of Losing One’s Place in Society

Many of us have a strong, irrational dread of those who are better than us. We believe that elevating another, even if only for a minute, reduces ourselves. So we’ll slip a snide remark within our flattery; if one half of our compliment lifts someone up a notch, the other will drop them straight back down.

Is it, however, necessarily a negative thing, you may wonder? Isn’t it good and necessary to criticize in our award-hungry society? It certainly is, but a praise is not the same as a criticism! While a critique may and should begin and conclude with a compliment, praise intended to be praise should not include any criticism.

Giving a complement has just one goal: to educate someone else of a positive quality they possess. It must be completely positive.

True critique, on the other hand, takes on a distinct appearance. When you give someone comments on something they can improve, they’ll be more responsive if you also commend them on something you enjoy about their work. However, the criticism must be specific.


“I truly appreciate your podcast,” says the listener. “You still have a long way to go in terms of improvement, but keep it up” fails as both a praise and a criticism. The compliment is drowned out by the criticism, and there is no particular comment on what needs to be done. It comes off as an insult in the end.

People who want to applaud someone’s work but don’t want to feel weakened in their own competence or superiority on the issue sometimes deliver backhanded compliments. However, contrary to popular belief, complementing someone has little effect on your own position. You’re only expressing a hitherto unseen fact.

If you’re concerned that your complement will give them a large head and cause them to overlook areas where they can improve, provide a meaningful criticism, praising what you like and providing thorough comments on what you don’t.

Also, don’t be too concerned; if they’re producing something valuable that you appreciate, they’re usually already their worst critic and are well aware of where they fall short (I’m always striving to improve my show, bro!).

The Indirect Insult

Finally, some backhanded complimenters have no good intentions at all; they’re just too afraid to really criticize someone, so they do it indirectly. “I’m genuinely amazed you’ve retained a job for 6 months,” for example, is almost certainly an effort to reiterate that you believe someone is a complete jerk.

Don’t hide your disdain under flattery; if you have anything to say, say it. Alternatively, say nothing at all.

The Dinner Table Rule: How to Avoid Giving a Backhanded Compliment

Using what I’ve come to refer to as the “dining table rule,” you may quickly determine whether or not your praise is backhanded. It’s simple: you take your praise and change it to something you’d say about someone’s meal if you were a dinner party attendee. You’re fine to go if it’s something you’d say around the dinner table. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut. The following are some examples:

  • You’ve shed a lot of pounds! You have a long way to go, but keep going! The dish was very tasty. You haven’t quite mastered the art of making it absolutely delectable yet, but keep trying!
  • Your website is fantastic. The majority of the articles, but not all of them. Dinner was fantastic. The green beans and mashed potatoes were not my favorites, but the rest of the meal was delicious.
  • For a public institution, that is an excellent college. This is a fantastic cake, especially considering it was prepared from a box.
  • For a small, obese man, you’re very athletic. For someone who is so new at cooking, your dish was very delicious.
  • Many people dislike your sense of humor, but I think you’re hilarious. Although I had heard negative things about your food, I found it to be delicious.
  • What a fantastic image! You must have a wonderful camera! → Excellent cuisine! You must have a really expensive oven!
  • Your artwork is really very nice. Dinner was really rather tasty.

Everyone could use more genuine encouragement in their life, so be generous with your comments and make sure they’re expressed in a way that encourages rather than discourages.




Watch This Video-

Backhanded compliments are a type of compliment that is given in order to make someone feel bad about themselves. This article discusses how to avoid giving backhanded compliments. Reference: backhanded compliment psychology.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I give backhanded compliments?

A: This is because people often give backhanded compliments in order to make you feel better about yourself. For example, I think your outfit looks really nice today can be said without the intent of being complimentary if someone has just had a bad day and doesnt want to hurt anyones feelings by saying something wrong.

What is an example of a backhanded compliment?

A: Give me a few minutes, Ill get you that drink.

Are backhanded compliments rude?

A: It is rude.

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