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April 15, 2008 / David Lindner

Back Handed Compliments

Have you ever received a back-handed compliment? I received a compliment from a lady at our church several weeks ago, and it felt kind of nice at first, then as I thought about it, I realized it was more of a criticism.
This “nice” older lady told me that I “looked so much better with my shirt tucked in.” At first, I thought, thanks for the compliment, but shortly thereafter I realized what she actually meant was, “you need to tuck your shirt in every week.”
So, for the next month, I made sure not to tuck in my shirt. Yes, I know that makes me a little bit of a rebel, but if someone has the gull to tell me I look bad regularly, they deserve to look at me that way.
It’s actually a leadership thing. Andy Stanley says (whom I think got it from John Maxwell) “What’s rewarded gets repeated.” If I were to reward this lady’s actions, I would only be encouraging her to make the same kind of remarks to me about other things, and possible about other members of our staff.
By responding the way that I did, I helped set a standard for her to follow. Kind of like saying, “hey lady, go ahead and tell me what you think about the way I dress, but I don’t really care.” It’s also like saying, “complaining about stuff doesn’t really work, so keep your complaining to yourself.”
It may not actually be that severe, but I can hope.

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