Backhanded Compliments

This is a subject that always makes me laugh and makes me think people aren’t listening to themselves when they speak.

As my sister says, “’Actually’ makes it worse!”

Take any compliment and insert “actually.”

“You actually look really good today.”

“This dinner you made actually tastes really good.”

“Wow!  You actually did a really good job!”

I can’t think of a situation where the word “actually” improves a compliment.  It makes the person speaking seem dumbfounded that something was good.

These are backhanded compliments – a genuine compliment but with a slap in the face attached.  Dinner was good, and I thought it was going to suck, so now I am extra delighted that you aren’t as incompetent as I expected!

Another awkward compliment that I learned well last year is the, “you have lost a ton of weight!” A ton?  Really?!  How flattering! 

How about, “You look great!  I hardly recognized you!”  Well, I am glad I no longer look like a forest troll!

They are funny, and I always have a good laugh when I either receive or overhear these comments, but it’s awkward at the same time.  Some people are notoriously bad about it.  It is especially awkward if your manager or supervisor uses it.

Giving a compliment is a happy moment for both giver and receiver.  If someone has done something to please you, it is important to share that with them, to brighten their day and reward their efforts.  I think it also requires us to be a little more imaginative than just muttering whatever hapless words come to our mouths.  We should have a little more pride in our imaginations anyway.  I don’t want someone to repeat some ridiculous and halfhearted thing I said in a moment when I could have been creative and sincere.

And in closing, I hope you all actually have a really good Wednesday!


  1. "Well, I am glad I no longer look like a forest troll!" HAHAHAHA that made my day! Also, I totally agree! My grandma is a PRO at backhanded compliments GRRRRR


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