Back-handed compliments: friend or foe?

Back-handed compliments: friend or foe?
Say what?

A Mom, who I like, asked me yesterday if I had another baby bump. When I said "No" she visibly felt so bad, I felt bad. Then she said, "You look great for two kids." Back-handed compliments can be zingers if you're not careful.

I responded, "Thank you." Compliments don't need disclaimers such as "for two kids," but it's coming from a good place.

My co-worker was annoyed someone told her, "You lost weight, you're so lucky." My co-worker spends hours every week at the gym and makes healthy diet choices. She is right, that's her hard work and not luck.

She graciously resigned to the fact that she is lucky to be blessed with good health, genetics and grateful for resources to make choices. She accepted it as a friendly compliment.

I've heard back-handed compliments that are definitely foe, such as "You're so pretty for your size." Someone else said, "You look better without your glasses." I listened to an offender tell my neighbor after a drastically short hair cut, "I liked your hair longer."

Some compliments are clueless. Someone at the gym told me, "You lift a lot of weight for a girl."

A healthy friend was recently perplexed when another co-worker said "You've lost weight. Are you sick? You look tired." That is definitely not something you should ever say... Open-ended question may get you more information if that's what you seek, but make sure it's coming from a good place...

My younger self took a lot personally and took offense easily. I've grown a thicker skin.

Moral of this story is to choose your words carefully and try not to take what others say personally. When in doubt, stay quiet...

Have you been prey to any good back-handed compliments lately?

On a related note, be sure to read True Grit by the eloquent and world-renowned Moms Who Drink and Swear. Not only does she try to divert the awkwardness from a back-handed compliment, but she also shares a painful lesson of when unsolicited advise is helpful. I, too, was the beneficiary of that recently... It stung, but was for the greater good.

From the archive: Overcome baby bump and new parent awkwardnessAccept compliments with grace; How to accept postpartum body image;  7 socially awkward moments I embrace

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