4 Ways to Deal With Backhanded Compliments

Receiving a backhanded compliment isn’t the best thing to happen. Here’s what our Risers’ ambassador, Dhruvee suggests to do if you ever get one!

Have you ever experienced a backhanded compliment or were you confused at one point of time whether what you received was a compliment or actually masked as an insult? For example, you go to an open house and meet an aunt who says “Wow you’re so grown now, BUT…,” ahh there we go, there’s the ‘but.’ 

What does getting backhanded compliments mean?

Basically, a backhanded compliment is where an insult is sandwiched between compliments. We could be naive enough to think those were compliments and go on about our day or otherwise address the problem.  

But, it cannot always be taken too lightly because, for certain people, it could be triggering and you wouldn’t know the consequences of those stinging words. Nevertheless, always remember that backhanded compliments reflect the individual’s lack of empathy and ignorance but not your worth. However, here are a few ways you can respond to backhanded compliments.

1. Be silent and move on


The power of silence is often misunderstood as a cowardly act when in truth, it’s actually the bravest way to handle a situation. It takes a tremendous amount of patience to deal with negative circumstances but if you’ve mastered the art of not caring, you might just be the most dangerous and fearless person out there. 

Many insults aren’t even worthy to be acknowledged, so sometimes, brushing it off and moving on is the best course of action. Your silence doesn’t mean you have conceded as certain situations don't require you to waste your energy on someone who doesn’t deserve it. For instance, a reaction may make it seem like you’re highlighting your insecurities but in reality, it is projecting how secure you actually are. 

However, it could be hard to stay silent as  the other person can feel validated by your silence thinking they successfully got under your skin. But if you think you won’t be able to handle the situation in a good way, it’s best to be silent and pick your fights wisely!


2. If you can’t fight them, humour them


Joking about an insult is also a great response. This is because joking about it can make the insult lose its meaning, which eventually cancels out what the other person was initially trying to achieve. It can also make you appear extremely confident to the point that the insult didn’t faze you even a little bit. 

Taking an insult too seriously can hinder one's self growth as it leads to overanalysis about oneself and the scenario. However, if you can successfully humour it, you’re indirectly helping yourself to respond to something like this in a seemingly healthy way. But also be careful to not internalise the insult to the point that you’ve to self-reflect and rethink your value. 

Therefore, it’s important to understand that the person insulting you is probably projecting their own negative thoughts on you or that they’re just actively trying to hurt you. For example, if someone says something like “Wow, you look very awake today!”, your joking response could be “Thank you, I drank a lot of coffee today lol” while rolling your eyes. Yeah… but maybe don’t roll your eyes (unless you want to). 

The good part about this method is that you’ll probably avoid drama and indirectly put the person back at their place by not acknowledging the insult at all.

3. Acknowledge the good parts


Though people say that criticism may be necessary for a person’s growth, it’s hard to take a backhanded compliment as constructive feedback. This is because it’s just an attack on you as an individual and often, not even true. Either the person insulting you must have thought pretty, pretty hard about how to hurt you or simply just doesn’t know how to give a proper compliment. So, when that happens, say thank you and acknowledge the positive ‘compliment’.

“Oh, you look good in that dress. It makes you look incredibly slim.” Homie, why don’t just say “oh you look good in that dress” and PERIOD *rolls eyes*. But, someone who’s unbothered could just say thank you and get along with their day because, who cares? If you only allow for the positive part to seep through, the other person will realise that you don’t care for the rest of the opinion which then negates the ideology behind it. 

Situations like this can oftenbe a test for your self-confidence and how comfortable you are with yourself so that it doesn’t adversely affect you. Again, saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t validate their opinion but, instead, shows that you heard what they said and, though you can’t control people’s mouth, you can control your reactions. In simple words, you’ve got the mental capacity to choose and interpret what you want to hear, so don’t let petty things like this shake you up!

4. Say bye to Mr.Nice. Fight back instead!


It’s very easy to say that you should be nice with people but, sometimes, trying healthier ways may not work. This is when you bring out the sassy side of yours that wouldn’t take any insult! This response works well when you know the other person does this frequently and knowingly so if they aren’t called out, it won’t stop.

In other terms, they could also be categorised as bullies. Bullies come in all forms and a passive-aggressive one is the worst kind. Hence, sometimes you’re not only doing yourself a favour but also for the others by speaking up and confronting them.

It may seem like this is the harshest approach but every person has a right to be respected especially when they haven’t done anything to provoke the insulter. Hence, why it’s important for us to learn how to be less tolerant by demanding for that respect to be upheld. For example, when you’re met with a compliment like this “I’m glad you finally took a risk. You were such a wuss before!”, you can simply reply by explaining why, if they deserve an explanation, and then ending your side by saying “It’s my personality to take a calculative risk but that doesn’t mean you can call me that.” 

Commanding respect might be the last resort for others but under certain circumstances, it should be the primary one as it forces the insulter to analyse their own behaviour and come to terms with their actions. Yet, it’s clear that this approach can stir some conflict but if you can handle that with grace, you go girlfriend/boyfriend/gender-neutral friend!!

It hurts that someone could be so vain that despite your achievements, you could still be put down like that. But, the good news is, how we react towards these compliments are absolutely on us. If it’s in your best interest to stay silent, you can, and when it’s better for you to speak up, don’t be afraid to! Don’t forget the compliment says more about the insult-er than it does about you. Yet, it’s still an opportunity to educate people, whether the “compliment” was intentional or unintentional.

Nevertheless, make sure to hold your head up high, your posture strong, and remind yourself that no words can affect your self-confidence if you don’t let it. Go rock the world, you powerful person and while we’re at that, I wish you all a Happy International Women’s Day!

Dhruvee Mukesh Kumar is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) at Taylor's University. She also shares her multiple interest on Instagram where she talks about various things including financial literally and world news

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