An Indian entrepreneur & investors guide to giving a sincere compliment

This is not a set of rules, but a guide for Indians in particular. Most of us are pretty awful when it comes to giving a compliment. I am not ready to psychoanalyze why that is the case. The usual suspects come up: our culture, our values, blah, blah, blah.

If you see something that’s good or someone that’s done a good job, just say it already.

This is especially true of engineers and developers. Something about the “I should not say this is very good else they will take advantage of me” is absolute bullsh*t.

I make exceptions for women. In this case alone, because almost anything they say is construed “I like this” in *that* way.

The worst are the guys who give back-handed compliments, thinking they are actually being nice. No, you are not. You are being a doofus.

Lets start with some examples.

1. You finish a meeting with an entrepreneur who is doing something new and innovative. Dont say “I tried this 2 years ago and it did not work, but your solution might”, when you intend to say “That’s a pretty neat idea and a new take on a problem I know exists”

2. Someone finishes their demo and they gave a very good pitch. Dont come to them and say “I thought I was the best at giving demos and now I know I can learn from you”, when you intend to say “You did an awesome demo. It was crisp and compelling. There’s a lot to learn from how you present.”

3. You meet an investor who has given you time to pitch, even though they, like you, are very busy. At the end of the meeting you got 2-3 good inputs from them and thought they understood the problem you are solving and what your solution does, even though they wont invest. Dont say “I met many investors, but you got what we are doing, unlike others who did not get it”, instead say “Thanks for taking the time to understand my solution. Its hard to understand it quickly and I am glad you got it quickly”.

What are the 3 guidelines I propose for giving a good compliment:.

1. Be sincere and genuine. If you liked it say you liked it. If you liked it a lot, dont say it was okay because you think it will give them a ego boost if you express “fandom” . Dont compare it to other things unless asked to do so. I understand the whole “frame of reference” and relative bit, but give people credit when its due.

2. Try not to use cliches. This is hard not to do, but pick up on one really standout part of the interaction and give them a compliment on that part. Their delivery, use of imagery, etc.

3. Keep your sentences short. That way you avoid getting into rat holes, especially if you are not sure what you really want to say. Or if there was nothing great about it, but it was good enough. Even one single sentence “Your demo was crisp” is better than 10 sentences of rambling about the market, why you tried and it did not work etc.

7 thoughts on “An Indian entrepreneur & investors guide to giving a sincere compliment”

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  2. This is a skill that everyone needs to develop for long term success.. Entreprenuers need to practices this skill more with their teams as well, in order for them to get the best out of their teams..

  3. I actually did not understand the big difference between the examples you mentioned.

    “I tried this 2 years ago, and it didnt work, but yours might” – isnt that a positive thing to say?
    “I know I can learn from you” – (skipping the part about “I thought I was the best”, I’d never say that) – isnt that a compliment?
    “You got it” – again, isnt that a positive?

    Am I missing something? Or is this just too deeply entrenched in my psyche?

  4. @samudranb: The compliment is best communicated if its about who you are complimenting. If every compliment is made with the person complimenting as the centerpiece, it takes away from the essence of the good words you intended.
    E.g. if you say” this idea is neat and you have an interesting approach to solving a problem” its an unadulterated compliment. If you said “you tried this 2 yrs ago, and it didn’t work,……..”, there’s more accentuation on your story, rather than your appreciation of my effort. Maybe there’s a nice lesson for me from your experience, but there’s no compliment there.

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