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Don’t Erase a Good Compliment with a Stupid But


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.

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?

Bonus material:

49 Dumb Things Bosses Really Said |

Leadership: “It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear” – Frank Lun (

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