A Bizarrely Effective Way To Tell Someone Their Idea Stinks Without Making An Enemy

Filed under:

You might have heard of the compliment sandwich.

You tell them something you like, then something you don’t like, then something you like.

The “bad” thing is sandwiched between two good things.

I’m not going to use that tactic here. I’m just going to tell you that idea is awful.


Because it ends on a high note.

That’s less-than-ideal because it can soften the urgency or importance of the bad thing that needs fixing.

But, if you leave it on something “bad” then that can leave them focusing on how “mean” you were.

(Humans are particularly fiddly creatures that have little to do with logic & reason. It’s mostly feelings and status with them.)

The question, then, is how do we avoid giving someone the perception that “it’s not really that important” while avoiding their “they’re being mean to me so I’ll shut down” defense mechanisms?

With the Curiosity Criticism Hack™

This is a title I just made up, and we’re going with it.

Try this out.

The universe loves threes. Don’t believe me? Try juggling two things. See how your friends react. Now try juggling three things. How do they react?

I rest my case.

We will use this Rule Of Threes to our advantage.

Start with three things you like, and be ultra specific here.

  • This is genuinely innovative because. . .
  • I can see how X person would find this super useful because. . .
  • What a perfect weight for. . .

Sidenote: In art school I learned that the most scathing, catty thing you could do is comment on the technique. Why is that? Because it says that there’s nothing else worthwhile to talk about. No narrative. No commentary. No concept. Nothing but some “nice greens you used there.” I say that here to say that there’s always find three specific things to be positive about.

Now that you have that out of the way. . .

You’re going to call out three things you don’t like.

Here’s the old way:

  • I hate the way this. . .
  • Why did you think to make it that way?
  • This is mega boring and I tuned out already.

Here’s your brand new way.

And this way will be the way you do it for the rest of your life.

Present the criticism as something you’re curious about; as something hypothetical.

  • I wonder if there’s a way to. . .
  • What if we. . .
  • If we did X what would that do to. . .

Doing it this way helps you fly under the “someone’s attacking me” radar while engaging their imagination in Collaboration Mode.

They can’t help but put their mind’s eye to use seeing your creative criticism as a potential avenue vs a battle line.

Try it out and let me know how it goes.