20 So-Called Compliments That Are Actually Hurtful and Stinging Insults

When people compliment others, sometimes, they truly do mean well. However, at times, people can be condescending and try to hide their criticism and insults under the guise of a compliment. Because of this, you, as the recipient of the compliment, should be more vigilant! Don’t let yourself get stepped on by others, and know how to differentiate a genuine compliment from a backhanded one!

“You Look Great for Your Age!”

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Saying someone looks great without adding anything to it is an excellent way to compliment another person. However, adding the phrase, “For your age,” at the end may backfire. It’s considered a stereotype or prejudice against people based on age. Aside from this, age could be a sensitive topic to some, and they might take this as an insult.

“I Really Like How You Don’t Care What People Think of You.”

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It’s a sad fact that humans care about others’ opinions. Though some aren’t directly influenced by others, some still succumb to social pressures. However, “I really like how you don’t care what people think of you” can be directly interpreted as, “It’s a good thing you don’t care about what others think because they would never approve of what you’re currently doing.”

“Hey, You’re on Time!”

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This may seem like a nonchalant comment. However, in reality, it’s highlighting how someone looks at your punctuality. This short statement, simply put, reveals how others believe you’re always late; it’s a condescending comment, too! On the flip side, if you’re usually on time and a coworker suddenly says this after you’ve been late that one time, then it’s also obvious that they’re acting in a way that demeans you.

“Your New Hairstyle Makes You Look So Much Younger!”

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Women have been struggling with appearance-related backhanded compliments that trap them in so much negativity. Sometimes, people actually mean it when they say that another person looks great; they just fail to see the insulting side of their comment. Sadly, most of the time, people mean something insulting when they compliment others. Saying someone’s haircut makes them look younger is similar to telling people they look great for their age; it’s another stereotypical and sensitive comment.

“You’re a Really Good Driver—For a Woman!”

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It’s sadly a man’s world, and women face criticism just for normal, everyday acts like driving. Daily Mirror notes, “Women seem to be facing prejudice every day when driving, simply because they are women.” So, saying something like this further amplifies the divide between the equality of men and women.

“You’re So Much Smarter Than You Look.”

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Simply put, saying, “You’re so much smarter than you look,” is basically the same as saying a person looks dumb or stupid. For example, jocks are seen as people who are only good at sports and bad at studying. In the same way, blondes have the reputation of being a “blond bombshell” and a “dumb blonde,” although they are much more than that. This is why saying this phrase could be so hurtful, especially if the one saying it really meant harm.

“You’re So Strong; I Couldn’t Handle What You’re Going Through.”

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Though some people can take this as a compliment, others still view it as an insult. After all, it can be intended as an ego-save. If that’s the case, then saying this statement is selfish, and the compliment is for them—not you.

“You Look So Great in That Photo. I Can’t Even See Your Acne!”

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This is considered a backhanded compliment because instead of just focusing on how one looks, they also nitpick on the fact that they have flaws, such as acne. This knocks down an individual’s confidence, making them self-conscious about themselves even more. The American Academy of Dermatology notes, “People with acne have said that their skin makes them feel unattractive, embarrassed, or self-conscious.”

“I’m So Impressed That You Are Handling the Kids So Well!”

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Parenting is one of the most challenging things adults will go through in life. The Zero to Three Tuning In survey revealed that 9 in 10 parents feel judged. So, some may consider saying something or commenting about one’s parenting styles—even if it looks like a compliment—insulting or demeaning. They might take it the wrong way and think you’re criticizing how they’re raising their kids. The University of Nevada, Reno, also notes, “When parents feel judged for their parenting, many may feel incompetent.”

“You’re So Pretty. How Are You Still Single?”

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People commenting on one’s relationship status is annoying in and of itself. It can also get really frustrating, especially if you’re the one who doesn’t want to find a partner yet or if you’re already okay with your breakup. However, comments like this can get worse when people say a compliment, like, “You’re so pretty,” with a commentary about how you’re still single. This is because this statement insinuates that you’ve got the looks, so it’s probably your personality causing you to remain single.

“I Would Never Be Able to Pull off That Outfit!”

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People have different styles, and having contrasting opinions is inherent in human nature. However, we must be careful with our words. Saying something like, “I would never be able to pull off that outfit,” can insinuate that a person’s taste or fashion sense is off or weird.

“You Did a Fantastic Job Handling That Project on Your Own!”

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This kind of statement is usually heard at work. While it may seem like a lovely compliment on the outside, it can sometimes be taken the wrong way. For example, it insinuates that you didn’t have enough trust in that specific person or employee before, and that’s why you’re surprised they could handle it by themselves.

“I Didn’t Expect You to Get the Job. Congratulations!”

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Though this also involves trust, like the previous compliment in the list, it may be even more hurtful. This is because statements like this wouldn’t usually come from a coworker; they’ll come from a friend, a partner, or a family member. So, knowing that such important people didn’t have a lot of trust in your capabilities can hurt that much more.

“Look at All That Food; You Have Such a Fast Metabolism.”

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It’s a bit more obvious that this is a backhanded comment. After all, this statement boldly insinuates that a person is overeating. Alisa Ruby Bash, a psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, California, was quoted by The Healthy. She said, “Telling someone to eat when they’re not hungry, shaming them for eating something you don’t approve of, making fun of someone’s eating habits, or critiquing their body can all be a type of emotional abuse.”

“You’re Surprisingly Good at This.”

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Be warned: this statement actually does more harm than good. Wording it this way and not using positive language can be borderline demeaning. Steve Keating, a recognized speaker and thought leader in sales, business management, leadership, and more, was quoted in an article titled Giving Compliments That Matter. He noted that when someone says, “You’re surprisingly good at this,” recipients are left wondering how bad they actually are.

“I Love Your Nails. It Must Be Nice to Have So Much Extra Time in Your Day to Pamper Yourself.”

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The first part of this statement may appear as a genuine compliment. However, once the latter part is added, it becomes a backhanded comment or an insult. A person hearing this statement will then wonder if the person is implying they’re lazy or they aren’t prioritizing the right things.

“You’ve Lost So Much Weight; You’re Not Fat Anymore!”

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UCLA Health notes that weight is a very sensitive and touchy subject. Therefore, talking about one’s weight—even when disguised as a compliment—can be irritating and demeaning. Unfortunately, unsolicited comments about weight are very common.

“You Look So Pretty With Makeup On!”

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When you say this to someone, they often think, “Am I ugly without makeup?” This is because people who wear makeup are more likely to be insecure about their looks. A study from the National Institutes of Health notes, “Some studies show that women with lower self-esteem use more makeup, probably to hide imperfections.” Thus, making this kind of statement will only harm one’s confidence.

“Great Job Getting That A! You’re So Smart!”

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Praising someone for their intelligence can look good on the outside. However, studies suggest that praise for one’s intelligence can actually have a negative effect on a student’s motivation. Instead, it’s recommended that people praise others for their efforts.

“You Have a Pretty Face; You Should Smile More.”

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Long story short, saying this to someone insinuates that you think that person is a grump. You believe that if you’re happy, others should be happy, too. At times, since this statement often comes from men and said to women, it can also appear as if women don’t please men by charming them and being agreeable to them all the time.

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20 Things You’re Doing That Make You a Bad Neighbor

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People have different personalities; that’s a fact. When you move somewhere with a tight-knit community, you will get to know many people who will either clash with your personality or make you feel like you’ve found a new friend. However, no matter what it is, remember to establish boundaries. If you don’t, you might soon see a lot of bad blood between you and other people in the community!

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20 Signs You Have Little to No Emotional Support in Your Relationship

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20 Christian Practices That Confuse and Puzzle Others

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All regions differ in some way. Catholics collect saint cards and plan their vacations around religious sights, and Buddhists believe in karma and reincarnation. Like them, Christians also practice some things that are simply unheard of or puzzling for others. They practice tithing, cast out demons, and more!

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Author: Karen Danao


Karen is a writer and also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, she is someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics she loves writing about! However, her true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.