pull one’s punches

pull (one's) punches

1. To act as if one is punching someone, without making any or much physical contact. How dare you—I have never pulled my punches during a fight in my entire career! I know you're trying to make the scene realistic, but please pull your punches next time!
2. By extension, to restrain one's commentary or criticism to avoid offending or upsetting someone. (Usually used in the negative.) I want your honest opinion of my story—don't pull your punches! Wow, your aunt really doesn't pull her punches. Is my sweatshirt really that ugly?
See also: pull, punch

pull one’s punches

1. tv. to pull back during a boxing punch just before the full force of a blow is felt; to land lighter blows than normal upon an opponent. (Boxing and related sports.) The boxer started pulling his punches, and the ref ended the fight.
2. tv. to hold back in one’s criticism; to attenuate the intensity of one’s remarks. (Also with any in the negative.) I won’t pull my punches with you. This is lousy.
See also: pull, punch