Archive for November 15th, 2010

November 15, 2010

Criticizing – the sandwich

Criticizing somebody in the US is a very delicate matter for a European (and probably others as well).  The rather open and blatant critique that is widely used in many European countries is considered rude here.

Criticizing somebody in a business setting is an art in the US, pic: © Fallenangel |

Here in the US to deliver an effective critique – one that people are willing to listen to and take seriously  – needs to be “sandwiched”.  Let me explain: assume you hire an American to do some work for you, e.g. developing a marketing campaign and the final product is not at all what you had hoped for.   You still don’t say this flat out – unless the work is so bad that you want to fire the guy on the spot –  instead you’ll say something like:

“George, I really liked the first part where you do the high level analysis.  We’ll need to work on the second part, the competitor analysis , I would like to see more (whatever it may be) there and then use that analysis to come up with a unique positioning.  The concrete marketing mix that you have proposed is very useful, we just need to tweak it a bit in some place.  Overall a really great start.”

So first something positive, then the critique  – in a very mild and nonthreatening format – and then ending on a positive, upbeat note – sandwiching the critique between two big juicy slices of positiveness makes it more palatable.

Who has time for that?  How inefficient! I hear everybody sigh – but this is how it is done here.  I agree, it might not be the most efficient way but people are trained in the art of reading or listening between the lines and get it – without being offended and becoming defensive.

November 15, 2010

Though stuff

This idiom is so very American: “When the going gets tough, the tough get’s going.”

when the going gets though ...., pic: © Dan Vasile-lucian |

In plain English it means: when things get difficult strong people are at their best taking action and solving the problem(s).  It is used in casual and business conversation.

The expression relies on a somewhat confusing play on words as let’s define the central words used

the going (noun): the situation; the circumstances; the environment

tough (adj.): difficult, hard

the tough (noun): tough people;  strong determined people

to get going (verb): start; go

Example: “We went through a really difficult phase last year at work.  We almost had to shut down the company but then we all pulled together, worked real hard and now the company does better than ever.  When the going gets though, the tough get going!”

A spoof on this saying is the following variation which makes fun of the favorite past time of many Americans “if the going gets though, the though go – shopping”.