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Pet Peeve #5: The Backhanded Compliment

Compliments are supposed to be a good thing, but sometimes when I receive them I wonder just how sincere the person is being. In some instances, I have even been a little offended by the compliment because of who it was coming from. 

I’m sure at one point or another most people have given or received a compliment that was less than 100% sincere. Sometimes it is accidental, and others an intentional dig at someone or something– either way it’s not really nice.

Movies like Mean Girls make these jokes about the “plastics” (the school’s popular girls) teasing each other about being less than perfect. If you are unfamiliar with this movie, a prime example of a backhanded compliment from it is when one of the popular girls gives the compliment of “But you’re really pretty,” to the new naive transfer student and then instead of accepting the new girl’s response of a simple thank you, the popular girl continues to question whether or not the other girl really believes it.

Having something that we hate about ourselves is almost a rite of passage for women, but dwelling on it or letting others poke fun at your expense just doesn’t sit right with me.

The most recent compliments I’ve received all have to do with the fact that I have lost some weight and toned up a little within the last year. Hearing positive remarks about something that I have been working hard to change was very encouraging, and made me feel good… until an ex made a comment about it.

I’m not sure if he intended to be mean, or if I was just jumping to conclusions because, well he’s an ex for a reason and I don’t trust anything he says to be sincere. At this point I’m not even sure what was said can really be considered a backhanded compliment, but I still consider it to be one.

I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like this: “You look really good, I can tell you’ve lost a lot of weight since we broke up.”

At the time, I was glad to see that someone else had noticed, but after thinking about it for a few minutes I started to wonder if he meant that I never looked very good while we were together, and if he always thought that, but just had never said anything.

Regardless of whether or not it was actually a backhanded compliment, the whole idea of them is a pet peeve of mine. If you honestly can’t think of something nice to say without sneaking in a rude or snide remark, just don’t say anything at all.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a backhanded compliment?


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