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How to Take A Backhanded Compliment



Hi everyone this is Mike Staver and this is Mondays with Mike, a weekly video show where I answer questions from people just like you. Here’s this week’s question:

How do you handle it when a person gives you a compliment that is actually an insult… but they truly meant it as a compliment?


Listen to me, this happened to me, I swear to you, you’re not going to believe me – you’re going to think I made it up for the show – but this happened to me two weeks ago! I was at dinner, I do this thing with clients, so I went to dinner and we were sitting at a big table, ten or eight of us sitting around this big table. It’s a big room, you know how it is at conferences, and there was a guy two seats over who’s in his 20’s and he said (in front of the whole table!) “Hey, Mike, I gotta tell you something man, you’re a rock star!” And I went, “Thank you, man.” And then he said “But you’re not just any rock star, you’re like, one of those rock stars that you go to the concert and they get up on stage and you can barely believe they’re alive. I mean you look at them and think ‘God, the road has been hell to you’. But man, the minute they open their mouths they sing the most amazing song it gives you chills! You’re that guy!! Like, when I look at you it’s amazing you can even get out of bed as old as you look, but you can sing, man you can bring home the points!” And I’m like “…are you calling me Keith Richards??”

Oh, sorry… this isn’t about me it’s about you. I don’t know what to do! I said to him “Can I take your comment in sections? Can I take ‘You’re a rock star’ and ‘You still deliver and it gives me chills’ and skip the ‘God the road’s been hard to you, you look like you’ve been beaten to death’… can I skip that part?”

Here’s what you do. If you really think it was meant as a compliment, say “Thank you…I think”. Anytime I get a compliment from somebody, I ride Harleys (as most of you who are regular viewers know, I ‘m a religious Harley rider) and I have a lot of Harley shirts. The other day I was in a meeting and I had a long sleeved shirt on, it had a skull right here [left breast pocket] and it said HD under it… Harley Davidson. And on the back the shirt said Harley Davidson. The facilitator of the meeting came in and said “Hmm, a skull. I didn’t know you promoted evil.” I said “Oh, thank you, I promote motorcycles.” …and then I punched the person. Just kidding.

So, I’d just usually say “Oh yeah, thank you, you like skulls? I like skulls, I can get you this shirt if you want.” There’s nothing you can do with a person like that, unless you want to insult them back, which never works well.

Alright, anyway I’m going on too long, that’s the answer this week, I hope it was helpful. That was a great question, sorta. Just kidding!

I’m Mike Staver. Take care.

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