Receiving Insults Disguised as Compliments: Stories of Social Interaction Failures
Insults disguised as compliments are often given with good intentions. Statements such as “You look good with makeup on!” or “You carry your weight well!” are not meant to put people down, but certainly don’t make us feel good. We’re also all familiar with the typical ironic response when complimenting someone’s outfit or makeup when really it’s an insult incognito. For example: “Wow Jenny, that jacket is out of this world!” I’ve personally seen this insult in disguise in action.
Backhanded compliments can be quite funny if you look at it from the point of social failures. I, myself, have received some interesting backhanded compliments from people who meant no ill will. Yet they still made me do a mental double take and reevaluate my self esteem. Here’s two personal stories:
Failure to Flirt
I am not an avid Facebook user and don’t receive many notifications, but one day a guy I knew only by name in high school sent me a private message. The message was the standard “hey what’s up?”, the kind of message I’ve associated with uncreative guys initiating a conversation on dating sites. I responded out of politeness and we made small talk. The typical, where are you now?, what are your hobbies?, etc. But then he dropped this heartthrob message (men take notes): “You’re prettier than I remember.”
Wait. Is that a compliment or did he waste all that time talking about my favorite colors/foods/animals just to make a petty insult?
For those who don’t see the harm in this insul…compliment, here’s a translation: “You were ugly in high school, but it’s okay because I find you attractive now.” Insert creepy winky face.
To be honest, I don’t remember what I responded with. The conversation died quickly after that monstrosity of a compliment. Lesson learned: Don’t tell a girl she’s prettier than you remember. Because your memory sucks; she was always gorgeous.
A Friendly Fumble
I went through a phase (and if I’m honest, I still daydream about it) where I was convinced I’d become a famous pianist/singer and if I tried hard enough, some record label would take me under their wing and I’d be an overnight superstar. I went through all the motions of getting noticed, one of which was by making accounts on music sites and posting my content and about me profile. One of these sites was ReverbNation. An ex-coworker of mine stumbled upon my profile on this site and asked me about it the next day. The conversation went like this:
Coworker: Do you have an account on ReverbNation?
Me: (How in the world did he find me? I hardly post.)…Uhh, yes.
Coworker: Oh wow! I wasn’t sure if it was you or not; you look nothing like your profile picture.
“You look nothing like your profile picture.” The phrase echoed in my ears like a bad joke.
For reference, this is my profile picture.
It’s a good picture! And I can say that without sounding egotistical because who doesn’t pick a flattering picture as their profile picture? And for my coworker to say I look nothing like it, well he might as well have said this: Your profile picture is gorgeous; real life you… well not so much.
Thanks Mr. Coworker. I’m glad you liked my music. My face on the other hand could apparently use some work.
In my 23 years of life I’ve learned to shrug these statements off. If anything, they make for funny stories. Let me know in the comments if you’ve received any compliments in disguise and the story behind them!
I’ll see you guys next Wednesday!
(And sometimes Sundays!)