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Passive-Aggressive Example
Handling a Backhanded Compliment

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The following is an example from website readers of passive-aggressive encounters they have experienced. The suggested responses are not personal advice as a full evaluation of the situation is not available. Also, the suggestions may not work in every situation but are to give you an idea of possible ways to respond. For more, read: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People and 7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

Question: How do you respond to the following statement? "Wow, for someone really well read, you watch the stupidest TV shows!"

Response: I suppose the temptation is to respond with, "Wow, for someone supposedly intelligent, you say the stupidest things!" However, let's assume that we don't want to stoop to the same level, but instead, handle this type of statement with tact while confronting the insult.

This is an example of a backhanded compliment which is a passive-aggressive way of insulting someone and can take many forms. Often, the insult is fairly well disguised but the recipient can distinguish the subtle nuance and feel the insult. However, in such a situation, it is very difficult to confront because on the surface it appears to be a compliment. As a result, the perpetrator can blame the victim if confronted, "Wow! Are you sensitive! I didn't mean it that way at all!"

In this case, however, the insult is fairly clear. I categorize it as a backhanded compliment because it starts out as a compliment and then slaps the victim in the face with an insult. Therefore, it can be confronted more directly: "I feel hurt when you judge me like that" or "Is there a reason you feel the need to criticize my TV viewing?" or "I understand you have a difference of opinion about TV shows, but is it necessary to say it in such a hurtful way?"

These statements confront the intention of the statement and point out how it is inappropriate. The other individual can still get defensive and deny intention such as "I was only kidding! You are so sensitive!" In which case, using the broken record technique of repeating what you just said (or a variation of it) with a request of "I'd appreciate if you don't do that again" until the person quits being defensive and agrees with your request can be effective.

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