Awesome Buts (Or this complement will self-destruct in 5 seconds.)

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Awesome Buts (Or this complement will self-destruct in 5 seconds.)

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Dude, that’s so cool that you climbed up there- let me get a picture. You are so awesome!

But, holy crap how did you manage to get your shirt so dirty???

See what I did there? Bet you’ve done it, or had it done to you. I just went and let my but get in the way of making someone feel good.

If you think about that from the physiological standpoint, what I did was even more cruel than it sounds.

A simplified explanation is that by giving some words of encouragement and approval his brain kicked up the levels of Dopamine, Oxytocin and Serotonin, making him feel good about himself, loved and successful. His reward system kicked in telling him everything is great. Shortly after, I knocked him down a few pegs causing those neurochemical levels to drop, inducing feelings of rejection and sadness, and since they were at a heightened state due to my previous statement, the difference felt is more drastic than if I’d not given the compliment at all. Not cool!

Flip your buts!

This isn’t my original idea, I first learned in from a leadership training session taught byKirk Weisler.  His suggestion is that if you’ve got a criticism to say, and you’ve got something positive as well, always give the negative first.

“Devin, your shirt’s really messy and you should take better care of it, but that’s a really awesome spot you climbed up to so let’s get a picture to remember it.”

Simple to do, and why wouldn’t you want to leave a person feeling good about themselves?  This isn’t just for with your kids or loved ones either.  At work we can change:

“Bob, you’ve done a great job with sales this quarter. You’ve blown away your overall target, but we need you to get more enterprise customers.”

to:

“Bob, focusing on getting more enterprise customers next quarter needs to be your priority, but I wanted to congratulate you on the awesome job you beating your overall sales target last quarter.”

Which is going to leave Bob feeling more motivated to go out and help the company with its goals?  The first scenario where we basically told him you did great but it’s not good enough, or the second where we gave him direction on where to focus his energy and then told him how how great he’s doing?

Follow This One Weird Trick to Make Your Buts Awesome

(Sorry, I just had to throw the click bait title in there, I couldn’t stop myself.)

I think Kirk’s advice is great, and I’ve tried to use it when I can.  Recently I’ve had more time to spend with my kids while Kim is out building support for our WeFeel Kickstarter campaign, and I’ve caught myself both remembering and forgetting to flip my buts.  And me being me, I got to thinking about how I could do even better.

Here’s what I’ve come up with. Whenever I feel the need to add a but to a statement, I want to try to figure out how to turn that into a learning opportunity.  Instead of “you did great, but here’s where you failed” or even the better form “here’s what you could of done better, but I’m proud of you” I think we have an opportunity for a real conversation.

Something along the lines of

“Hey let’s talk about <topic>. Here are some things you may not have considered that I think could help out…  What are some of the things you learned? If you were to do it again what would you change?   Cool, I think you’ve done an awesome job so far and it’s great that you are thinking about how you can do even better. I can’t wait to see how you do next time!”

See what I did there? I got rid of the buts. And despite Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s preferences, sometimes no buts are the most awesome buts.


1 Comment

Judy Dalby

June 30, 2016at 8:32 pm

So much wisdom here.

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