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Text comes from the book: “Schlagfertigkeit” (2015), published by Haufe Verlag, reprinted with the kind permission of the publisher.

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Inappropriate criticism and poisoned compliments: Only no harmony addiction!

Hardly anything hurts us like unjustified criticism. We will show you how you can react to it and present the two most important techniques: the area presentation and the interpreting technique.

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The poisoned compliment

"Well, I found your comments very interesting," said one colleague after you finished your report. “Your suggestions are not feasible, but they are really original. And what I also missed was a certain order of your thoughts.

It was all messed up, I could hardly follow you. But you put it well. ” Such quirky statements are uncomfortable, you don't know what to say on them. And that is exactly the purpose of the "poisoned" compliment. They are supposed to think you are being complimented so that you do not realize that you are actually being attacked.

Fear of open criticism

Such "poisoned compliments" occur quite frequently in everyday professional life. The reason: your conversation partner does not dare to openly criticize you - but what he actually wants. That is why he installs a more or less hidden barb in his praise. But why this camouflage? There are two different reasons for this:

The other doesn't want to hurt you at any cost. Executives in particular shy away from open words because they think that they have to praise properly before they want to criticize. A mistake with grave consequences.
The other wants to belittle you. Perhaps he fears you as a competitor, or he simply dislikes you. Of course, he can't admit either, so he pretends to mean well with you.

If all the mendacious praise

In some Company has become a fatal addiction to harmony. You can find everything right and great that is “done”. Criticism is something negative that discourages others. So first “build up” the people with praise before you can start telling them what you really think of their performance: namely nothing.

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This mendacity has serious consequences. It is less and less possible to actually praise and actually constructively criticize. Because everyone is asking: What does the boss really mean when he says: “We have had a great year. All of them have done excellent work without exception. I wanted to sincerely thank you for that. ” - Is everything really good or is there a colossal wave of layoffs?


You have to find out what your counterpart really means. There are two ways to do this: the demand ("What do you mean?") Or the interpreting technique, which you will get to know shortly. Incidentally, you should let the other person know that you value an honest objection more than a mendacious praise.

Hiding blackened

This is the real domain of the "poisoned compliment": Actually, someone wants to say something mean about you, to belittle you, to blacken you. But if it were done openly, you could fight back or take sides for yourself. Then your conversation partner would look bad.

So he sends a compliment ahead - as a false track, so to speak, so that everyone thinks he's on your side. In addition, the compliment in the group is his drawing line, so to speak. If the "poison" thing doesn't work so well and the crucial people are on your side, then he can withdraw on the compliment.

“Great by your standards”

Compliments are particularly perfidious, which are given the addition: “For your circumstances” or “for you”. A wonderful lecture - for your circumstances. Objectively, the thing was terrible, but since you are completely incapable, a terrible lecture "for your circumstances" is still wonderful.


There is a simple way of defending yourself: You name the degradation of yourself by name. You should calm things down a bit. You can find out more from the "interpreter technique" under the keyword "the tongue of poison". Here only so much:

If you have disclosed the allegation, you should ask a question to clear up any ambiguities: “Did you mean that? Did I understand you correctly? ” You can be sure that the person you are talking to has packed his poison in a sweet compliment for a reason. As a rule, he will give small. Or he is now openly criticizing. Then everyone knows where they are.

"I was not bored at all"

“A great lecture, I wasn't bored at all. The last minutes at most. ” - “Great, so you think I'm such a boredom that it is a top achievement for you if you doze off in the last ten minutes? Have I understood that correctly?" - “No, I really liked it. But it is true that all lectures have a sag at some point. At least that's how I feel. ”

Of course, the "poisoned compliment" is sometimes used ironically or even maliciously. But how you deal with malice will be dealt with in a later chapter.

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