One ploy that even the most naïve of listeners or readers can detect is following a positive comment with the word but, as in:
You’re doing a good job as a writer, but you need to improve as a speaker.
The full force of the words following but usually nullifies the weaker positive phrase that preceded it. Instead of but, try and. Example:
You’re doing a good job as a writer. Your e-mails are purposeful and respectful, and your technical reports are detailed and organized. And if you want your oral presentations to be just as purposeful, respectful, detailed, and structured, you need to work on improving them.
The second draft not only sounds more positive, but it suggests to the reader an approach for improvement. Wherever I lead seminars, participants agree that the and sounds more real and sincere than the but—no but about it.
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