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  • Writer's pictureReuven Sherwin

What's the difference between a compliment and an insult?

The other day at work, I was on a meeting with a number of people.

We were discussing some topic and at some phase of the discussion, Joslin turned to Greg and said: "I really appreciate your operational skills. The way you make a plan and execute it is inspiring".

As background you should know, that over the years, Joslin and Greg had their differences, and while on a personal level got along fine, on a professional level they were always suspicious of each other, doubting the motives, questioning the quality and overall didn't trust the other's professionalism.

So hearing this Joslin say what she said, immediately flared an internal debate between my .

Positive-Reuven said: "Wow! Joslin gave Greg a compliment, in public... Cool!"

Pessimist-Reuven said: "Within 24 hours I'll be hearing ricochets. Greg won't be happy about this."

Unfortunately, Pessimist-Reuven was right.

In a meeting the following day, Greg told me: "Did your hear how Joslin's insulted me in public? How she emphasized my operational skills, while actually hinting my managerial skills are lacking???"

What actually happened?

Weren't the three of us part of the same conversation?

Why was the compliment given by Joslin to Greg, received as an insult by Greg?

The answer, in one word, is Trust.

When I trust you, I will interpret things you say in a positive way. Even the most painful criticism you offer me will be interpreted as something positive, since I trust you are "for me".

And when I distrust you, I will interpret things you say in a negative way. Even the most positive feedback you give me may be interpreted as something negative, since I mistrust your motivation...

It's all about trust!

Trust from

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