The “Great, But…” Dilemma: Yet Another Solution

We’ve talked about how it’s not such a good idea to use the “great, but …” technique in dishing out criticism. You might say, for example, “Great looking dress, Josephine, but is it supposed to be that tight around your hips?” or “Great presentation, Sal, but I didn’t understand what you were trying to say.”

The trouble with trying to pad criticism by preceding it with a phony compliment is that the grammatical structure itself sends an immediate signal to the listener: “You are about to be criticized.”

You therefore get no motivational benefit from it, because the listener doesn’t hear the compliment. He’s completely focused on the criticism. One good solution that I have recommended in the past is to substitute “great, and …” for “great, but …” I’ve tried it many times, and it does seem to help. The benefit is not only in dropping the dreaded “but” but also in forcing you, the critic, to be more thoughtful about your criticism.

Another solution (as reported in the premier issue of Leadership Strategies) comes from Leslie Braksick’s book, “Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits.” Leslie suggests using a compliment followed by a question, as in the following: * “You did a great job organizing the celebration with our key customers.

I was pleased with the way it turned out. Do you expect more attendees?” * “Your department’s performance was great. The next two quarters are going to be rough. Everyone’s maximum efforts will be needed to hit our numbers. How are you feeling about it?” See if this works for you.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]