No matter who you are, it’s easy to accidentally let a backhanded compliment slip through your dialogue. Maybe it’s an overemphasis on a word such as “actually”, or an accidental “but” after saying something nice. Either way, it’s annoying for the person on the receiving end. The Art of Manliness created the “Dinner Table Rule” to combat this problem.
Picture: Mirjam Struppek/Flickr
The idea here is that if you’re not sure a compliment is backhanded, apply it to what you’d say about someone’s cooking. If it sounds inappropriate at the table, then it’s probably inappropriate as a compliment too. Here are a few of their examples:
- You’ve lost a lot of weight! You still have a ways to go, but keep at it! → The food was pretty good. You haven’t succeeded in making it truly delicious yet, but keep at it!
- I really like your site. Not all of the articles, but most of them. → I really enjoyed dinner. I didn’t care for the green beans and mashed potatoes, but the other stuff was good.
- That’s a really good college, for a state school. → This is a really good cake, for something made from a box.
- You’re pretty athletic, for a short chubby guy. → Your food was pretty good, for someone so new to cooking.
- Lol, a lot of people don’t like your humour, but I think you are really funny. → People had told me bad things about your cooking, but I really liked it.
- Great picture! You must have a really nice camera! → Great food! You must have a really fancy oven!
- Your paintings are actually good → Dinner was actually good.
It’s a pretty simple way to check a compliment for any accidental wrongdoing. Beyond that, if you’re saying “actually” at any point in a compliment, you should probably hold your tongue.
How to Avoid Giving a Backhanded Compliment [Art of Manliness]