How to Ruin a Compliment

a complimentHearing positive feedback is more important than getting a raise, at least according to several motivation theories. But how easy is it to ruin something so inherently positive as a compliment? Much easier than it seems. Has it ever happened to you that somebody said something really nice to you, but in the end you didn’t feel satisfied, encouraged, proud? Some people are masters at that, even though they might even not be aware of having this skill.

Here’s how you can ruin a compliment. Every. Single. Time.


Ruin a compliment by adding a “but” sentence


Notice the difference between the two sentences below:

“You did a really good job in the meeting.”


“You did a really good job in the meeting but we need to make sure that…”

No matter how the second sentence ends, you will definitely not feel proud, motivated or happy after reading or hearing it. The beauty of this method is that you can say all the nice things in the world, but if you add a “but” sentence to it, even if not too negative it neutralizes it pretty efficiently.

Ruin a compliment by making it ambiguous

Another surefire way of making the recipient of your compliment weary is to make the compliment ambiguous. You can achieve ambiguity in many ways, but the most efficient way is to elaborate long, and stick as far from the point as possible

Here’s an example:

“Your report provided good insight into the areas that we wanted to look at and even though there are many different viewpoints on it the report was accurate in the way that it represented current status of the difficulties that we are facing.”

What did the writer want to point out? The many viewpoints or the difficulties or the purpose of the report? Or did they actually want to compliment you on the good report?


Ruin a compliment by using a weird metaphor

Not every metaphor will work, but if you stick to the following rule the success is guaranteed: the metaphor needs to be either poor or unrelated. If you can find the angle in which it can be lightly or moderately offensive then you will definitely ruin the compliment.

“You are as hard-working as a beast of burden.”

Now, who would ever feel flattered after hearing this?

What is your favorite way to ruin a compliment? What is the most horrible compliment that you’ve ever received?

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