Don’t Erase a Good Compliment with a Stupid But
A ritual gone bad:
I have a ritual question I ask my wife. Sometimes I want the grandchildren to hear. The ritual begins when I ask, “Do you know what I like about you?”
She replies, “What do you like about me?”
I reply, “Practically everything.”
The other day, I changed the ritual and replied, “Everything but one or two things.”
“Practically everything,” turns your thinking to good things.
“Everything but one or two things,” makes you wonder about things disliked.
Tip: Don’t erase a good compliment with a stupid but.
‘But’ is an erasure.
- You did a great job, but…
- That was a great presentation, but…
A clumsy good thing causes harm.
A bad decision:
Yesterday I was reflecting on how much I enjoy life with my wife. ‘The better half’ is an insult to the way I feel about her. That’s when a strange thought came to mind.
I can’t imagine life without her, but if I had to, I could live without her.
I walked into the bedroom and said, “I’ve made a decision.”
She paused and said, “And….”
“I’ve decided that I can live without you.”
A moment passed and she said, “Go ahead.”
I intended to let her know that the thought of living without her was nearly unimaginable.
I tried to explain, but words can’t fix something that stupid.
Tip: Don’t talk about yourself when you’re complimenting others.
“You are an important part of the team,” is better than, “I could live without you, but it would be hard.”
Good intentions don’t compensate for saying something stupid. It’s not what you intend. It’s what people hear that counts.
What makes compliments ineffective? Effective?
49 Dumb Things Bosses Really Said | Inc.com
Leadership: “It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear” – Frank Lun (fastcompany.com)
“Go ahead.” I like your wife!
LOL…she’s awesome. 🙂
Always that dreaded but, it erases everything stated beforehand. If we must provide feedback for improvement that is a different statement than just giving a straight forward compliment and encouragement. It all comes to understand the situation and the conversational aspect.
Thanks James. It’s usually better to separate compliments from correction and instruction. Give enough compliments that you don’t have to use them to soften the blow of a correction. Just give the correction and move on.
The durability of criticism, and the perishability of compliments has always been a mystery.
Thanks, and well said. Am wondering if you ever write about the kind of ‘leaders’ who dodge the tough stuff but show up to criticize…. Asking for a friend 🙂
Once we have inserted foot in mouth, surely requires a smooth back step.
It comes back to the thinking concept, think before we speak, often time we have spoken then reality hits OMG, did i just say that. Best of luck planning your future lonely nights Dan….LOL
I usually try to replace “but” with “and”. It doesn’t negate the first statement, AND, it says that there is more to come.
But is an acronym: Behold the Underlying Truth… as you pointed out, everyone pays attention to what comes after the “but”, not what came before.
Also, if “and” doesn’t work in the sentence, then try “however”. These are concepts I share in coaching and facilitation workshops for effective feedback.
Great message, Dan. As I like to say, âWe judge ourselves by our intentions, but others judge us by our actions.â
Center Leadership Coaching, LLC
Everyone has a big “But!”
Love this discussion, Dan! When I work with coaching supervisors and managers on providing performance management feedback, both positive and corrective, I always talk about the dreaded “but” and in my opinion “however” is just a pretty but… We have to work on better transitions in our communications, ‘and’ ‘and yet’ ‘my concern’ or even just a punctuation mark.
Love your take on it, and sounds like I would get along great with your wife. 🙂
I have heard the but of a compliment many times and it feels ok for a while but eventually it just feels like it was not a complement at all but an attempt at making the criticism easier to handle. It does not respect the person it is being delivered to.