Backhanded compliments can come from your friends’ mouths without them even knowing it.
Sometimes, despite good intentions, the words just come out that have a different meaning than intended. Other times, the intention is to insults.
We consulted our pool of writers and asked them for their favorite, funny backhanded compliments examples. This list is the result.
One word of warning: only use these when you have to.
Good Backhanded Compliments
By giving the appearance of saying something nice, the sting to the insult hurts that much more.
1.) I bet you were in great shape when you were younger.
Look, this one sounds good at first. But upon further examination, it’s actually a double-slam! To attack fitness and age effectively in 11 words is no small task — but this one accomplishes it with style.
2.) I always feel more intelligent after reading your work.
There’s no doubt about this one — it can be read in two totally different ways. The first reading suggests a sincere compliment in that your writing makes me smarter.
The other interpretation suggests that your prose is so bad that I feel more intelligent for a different reason. It’s subtle enough that it may be lost on the recipient.
3.) It’s really difficult to underestimate you.
So, if expectations are very low, they still might not be low enough. Yet, it still sounds positive enough to pass for something nice.
4.) Your new haircut makes your nose look smaller.
The takeaway: the person is saying that you have a big nose. Personal insults about a friend’s face seldom go over well.
5.) You look really nice in this light.
The real meaning: it takes special conditions for you to look nice. In other light, you don’t look so good.
Emotional manipulation via negative comments is referred to as negging. Backhanded compliments fit right into this act.
6.) I love how you just wear anything.
Translation: I’d never be crazy enough to show up in public with something this wild and out of the norm. Sure, it’s a testimony to your confidence, but it’s also a slam of sorts.
7.) Your wife isn’t half as lucky as you are.
When comparing spouses, you were fighting above your weight when you landed your Mrs. It’s a compliment to your wife’s looks, but a put-down to your appearance.
8.) That’s a beautiful photo of you. I didn’t recognize you at first.
So, it beautiful, but you didn’t initially think it was me. Gee, thanks.
9.) I like your outfit… it matches today.
Translation: You’ve overcome previous fashion disasters by finally putting together a combination of clothes that isn’t a hot mess.
Check out our Best Insults and Comebacks page.
Much like backhanded compliments and stealth insults, underhanded compliments cover the same ground. Here are a few.
10.) You’re really funny… in your own way.
Look, it might not appeal to the masses, but in your own little neck of the world you may find an audience. Granted, it might be very small.
11.) You’re not as dumb as you look.
This is one of the vintage classics that suggests you look stupid but because the bar was so low, you’ve exceeded expectations on intelligence.
12.) You’re really fast for your size.
Fat people are noted for being super slow. Because you’re expected to move like you have a plow attached to your rear end, and actually moving marginally quicker, you’ve earned this positive praise.
13.) Those pants make you look far thinner.
It takes fashion magic to make you look skinnier than you usually do.
Another synonym for a backhanded compliment, the left-handed compliment balances delicately between soft praise and a biting insult.
14.) If you keep working hard I’m sure someday you’ll be at the top of the bell curve.
Why this works: Most folks assume that when you make it to the top of something you’re doing well. But, in the case of a bell curve, making it to the top means you’ve just hit the median (and still have a long ways to go to be in the top 10%).
15.) I truly love how you just don’t care what others think. That takes a confident person!
A recognition of independence and confidence is also a subtle jab that you’re way outside the norm.
16.) I don’t care what others say about you, “You’re alright in my book.”
While you throw others under the bus, you come out positive. But, and this is a big but, why would you say something like this in the first place?
17.) What you lack in intelligence, you make up for with effort.
You’re not smart but you try hard is not really much of a compliment, is it?
FAQs on Slights and Aspersions
Some Q & A that you might find interesting.
A.) What is a backhanded compliment?
Backhanded compliment definition: The meaning of a backhanded compliment is a comment that provides some level of praise with an insult. Synonyms include: underhanded compliment, left-handed compliment, slight, aspersion, and stealth insult.
Backhanded Compliments Video
B.) How do you respond to a backhanded compliment?
Consider the audience, the situation, and the speaker’s intent before answering. Here are some options:
Treat it like a genuine compliment (especially if you think that was the speaker’s intent) and say, “Thank You.”
Ignore it. Life’s too short to address every affront especially if it was unintentional.
Provide a partial thanks for the portion of the statement that was complimentary. Accomplish this by repeating that portion or paraphrasing and saying thanks for that.
Address the insult directly by calling it out and expressing appreciation in a sarcastic tone. Note: be careful with this approach.
Respond in kind to the insult with witty humor of your own.
C.) What is the definition of Negging?
Negging means to attempt to manipulate a person with backhanded compliments and negative feedback to lower their confidence and increase their need for approval. Pickup artists originally used the term.
By Bridget Shaw
Bridget writes about language, pop culture, and entertainment.
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