When someone says a nice thing about me or my work I make a bad joke to deflect, but it’s pretty obvious what I’m doing and just underlines the clumsiness of the moment. On better days, I’ve tried a simple sincere, “Thank you, that means so much” plus steady eye contact. This is probably the adult way to behave, but I’ve found it encourages the compliment-giver and they continue saying nice things and the moment drags on and I sweat.
I’d rather receive criticism than a compliment. Lucky for me there is plenty of that to go around in advertising. My favorite clients ever—nice Midwesterners who work at a notable consumer packaged goods company—are trained to administer a tasty “criticism sandwich” when reviewing our work. Open with a compliment, put the negative stuff in the middle, and then finish by topping with another slice of something nice. Some served up this sandwich more gracefully than others. Sometimes they struggled for that last piece of compliment bread and the thing ended up being an open-faced sandwich, cold cuts of criticism just piled on. I remember one brand manager opening with, “Well let’s start with the good stuff: I really like how you guys have used the color blue!” Good job using the primary brand color that’s all over the brand guidelines. As expected, what followed was the equivalent of a disgruntled Subway sandwich artist lashing out at the universe.
Another time I left an interview I felt didn’t go well. I was nervous and talked quickly, as I do when I’m nervous. There were several interviewers in a group at once all with different agendas and questions and I had a hard time keeping up. As I walked out, I confided in one of the interviewers who I’d worked with previously. “I think I was nervous and sounded weird,” I said. He smiled reassuringly. “You’re worrying for nothing!” I waited for him to tell me I was overanalyzing and the whole thing went smoothly. Instead he said, “Once we interviewed this guy who had a really distracting nervous tic but we hired him and he ended up being great.” So that was my bar.
Know anyone who takes compliments and criticism like a pro? I already distrust this politician, but would like to hear about him or her. What’s the trick?