Business Musings

How to Deal with Backhanded Compliments Online

Reading time: 3 mins

The scenario. You’ve posted a picture or status update online, and up pops a compliment in the comment section. Or is it an insult? You read the comment to yourself and it doesn’t matter which way you phrase it, all roads lead to the carefully-crafted, passive-aggressive, backhanded compliment.

So what’s a backhanded compliment?

According to our dear friend (Collins English Dictionary), a backhanded compliment is ‘a remark which seems to be an insult but could also be understood as a compliment’ or ‘a remark which seems to be a compliment but could also be understood as an insult.’

It has long been observed that users leave such comments in attempt to underhandedly dim someone’s light, and affirm to themselves and others that they are superior to the poster in some way.

The ‘gracefully put’, backhanded compliment is a commenter’s attempt to minimise the poster’s abilities, achievements and experience—or in some cases, physical appearance, and while they’re at it, garner attention for themselves.

If you have been on the receiving end of such comments online, here are some ways you can deal with these comments.

Ignore them.

Sometimes silence is the best answer. It also demonstrates that you will not be dragged down to the commenter’s level. Often such comments do not go unnoticed—other users can see it for what it is, just how you can see it for what it is. By attempting to belittle others, they actually end up (knowingly or unknowingly), belittling themselves.

Respond to the comment – the compliment, that is…

If you feel you must respond, focus on the positive part of the comment, and respond to that. Once again, it also keeps you in your positive frame of mind and demonstrates that you are not prepared to be pulled into negativity online.

Keep in mind comments on social media can be viewed by potential employers, clients and business partners – you are giving them a window into how you generally deal with conflict. If you are prepared to throw insults back and forth on a worldwide stage, how would you conduct or cultivate business relationships? How would you represent a company or a brand? How do you resolve conflict with colleagues in the workplace? These are genuine recruiter and client concerns when viewing such exchanges online.

Take it with a pinch of salt and add a sprinkling of humour.

Remember such comments are mostly designed to belittle and create a barrage of negative internal dialogue. Responding with a humorous comment—which is neither snide or backhanded, is a great way to communicate that a backhanded compliment isn’t about to steal your joy. You have bigger fish to fry!

Don’t forget…

People use social media for various reasons and not everyone will necessarily like what we post. Confidence to continue sharing content should not rest upon praise, lack of praise, or backhanded compliments. Your profile is your profile, your ‘wall’ is your wall. Do not be deterred from sharing something of positive value.

Have you experienced backhanded compliments online? How did you deal with it? Leave a message in the comment section below! I’d love to hear from you.

Aisha A. Phipps
Musings of Ms. Phipps

© Musings Of Ms Phipps and Aisha Phipps ( 2018-2019. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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