16 Compliments That Might Actually Be Considered Insults

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Majority of the time giving a compliment is welcomed, and typically makes the person on the receiving end feel good about themselves. However, there are certain compliments that can have implications that are well less than complimentary. For example, if your reaction to someone’s positive trait or actions with surprise, make them uncomfortable, or even perpetuate a racial or gender stereotype, then your “compliment” turns into an insult. Here are 16 things you might want to rethink saying, no matter how pure your intentions may be.

“Your New Hairstyle Makes You Look So Much Younger!

While people typically really enjoy getting a compliment on their new appearance, adding anything in might inadvertently suggest they actually look worse than before.

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Wyatt Fisher, PhD, a licensed psychologist in Colorado, says that in this case you’re actually suggesting that their previous hairstyle made them look old. Just stick to the compliment; there’s no need to elaborate, he adds.

“Hey, You’re On Time!

You may think you are giving praise to good behavior when you’re celebrating a typically late friend for making it on time, But your backhanded “compliment” will most likely come off as the complete opposite of praise.

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A licensed social worker and founder of From The Inside Out Project,Laura MacLeod says, “You’re just pointing out that lateness is their norm and calling attention to that,” “This also can come across as condescending.”

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

According to Fisher, expressing general admiration for your spouse’s parenting abilities is a sure fire way to make them feel like you are surprised that they are able to cope with parenthood at all.

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Even more so when it’s coming from the primary parent, typically the mom, “complimenting” the other parent, oftentimes the dad. It is perfectly ok to compliment certain things, such as “That was great how you handled that tantrum so patiently” but try to avoid using vague cliches.

“You’re A Really Good Driver… For A Woman!

According to Irina Baechle, licensed social worker, relationship therapist and coach, this type of  “compliment” comes in various nauseating ways and oftentimes has a racial or sexist undertone.

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“You’re so articulate…for a Black person.” “You’re in such good shape…for a mom.” “You’re so smart…for someone who’s never been to college.” No one needs whatever comes after the “for”; just stop with “You’re so well-spoken/fit/intelligent/etc.”

“You Are Such A Strong Person!

When someone we know is facing something challenging in their life we typically want to convey our support and our confidence in their capability of getting through it.

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Unfortunately making comments like this just brings to light that their life is really difficult right now, says Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. Additionally sometimes people don’t want to be “strong” or they may just feel like they aren’t mentally prepared to handle that specific situation. Making comments like “you are such a strong person” might end up making them feel inadequate.

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

Your intentions might be to give someone a well deserved pat on the back, but by saying this you might actually be saying that they aren’t a team player.

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For people that come from cultures that value group or family successes over individual achievement, comments such as these may feel insulting or possibly even humiliating.

“You’re So Gorgeous!”

Who doesn’t want to hear that you see them as an attractive person? It turns out there are quite a few, believe it or not. Making comments about someone’s appearance, especially when you don’t have a very close relationship with them, may make them feel uncomfortable or even harassed.

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Sackett says, “The most powerful (and safest) compliments are those that you know the recipient will feel connected to before you offer it.”

“I’m So Proud Of You For Getting A Raise This Year Honey!

Commenting your partner strictly on their achievements can end up making them feel more like a paycheck and less of a human being..

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McManus says,”Plus, they may or may not feel they earned it, or are remembering when they didn’t get it before, and a compliment can stir up complicated feelings like guilt or embarrassment.”

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

Giving our children compliments, especially when they have earned something just seems like basic parenting, right? Wrong, apparently complimenting their achievements can inadvertently make them feel as though all we care about are those achievements.

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Licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, Amy McManus says, “It’s more important to compliment your children on the actions that reflect your family’s values, like persistence in the face of discouragement, helping others, or working hard toward a goal.”

“You Look Great For Your Age!

Telling someone they look great for their age is a backhanded way of telling them that they aren’t as beautiful or handsome as the younger versions, just in comparison to their wizened counterparts.

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Instead of being insulting just leave off the “for your age” part.

“You Are A Saint For Having So Many Kids!”

This “compliment” is an insult twice over, you are implying that they don’t haven’t made sound reproductive choices”You have too many kids,” and you are also insulting their children, making it seem like you would have to be a saint to deal with them.

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Susan Henney, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown says, “It is common for people to hide judgments on life choices in compliments.”

“You’re So Pretty, How Are You Still Single?

Single people absolutely love being constantly reminded of being single, don’t they?

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Well the simple answer is, of course they don’t! Add in a bewildering “but you’re so pretty” and you are making the implication that there has to be something else wrong with them if they are that pretty and still single. Best to just leave their relationship status out of the conversation.

“You Have A Pretty Face, You Should Smile More.

What your words are actually saying is, “Buck up, you grump. I’m in a good mood, so you should be too” which assumes that everyone is just like you or is having exactly the same kind of day as you.

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Henney says, “Since it is often said from men to women, it can also be interpreted as the female not pleasing the male by being charming and agreeable at all times.” The gist is, you are not in control of how others feel or how they express their feelings. Want someone to smile, make an effort to put a smile on their face.

“Look At That, Your Girlfriend Is Smoking Hot!

Backe explains, “The second part of this sentence is ‘and what on earth is she doing with you?'” Complimenting on the looks of someone else’s significant other is just uncomfortable, you are clearly checking them out and also comparing them to others.

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There are other ways to compliment someone’s relationship without being insulting.

“Wow, You’ve Lost So Much Weight, You’re Not Fat Anymore!

Weight is always a very sensitive subject, you really should avoid making unsolicited comments about a person’s figure, even if you think you are being complimentary.

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John Moore, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist in Chicago said, “I’ve had clients, both women and men, cry in my office because they were told something just like this, it can be devastating,” he explains. Not sure what to say? Follow the other person’s cues. If they want to talk about their weight loss, they will bring it up.

“You Look So Pretty With Makeup On!

What you are actually saying is that they don’t look pretty without makeup on, at least that’s what the person on the receiving end is thinking.

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There isn’t anything wrong with giving someone a compliment about their makeup, just don’t imply that they look horrible without it on.

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Athena Hallet

Written by Athena Hallet

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