10 Things to Say Instead of “You’re so Talented”

Your friend shows you a picture of a photograph she took. It’s absolutely stunning. The lighting, the composition, everything. It’s perfect! What do you say?

“You’re so talented!”

Why on earth do we say that? Was the picture taken the very first time your friend picked up a camera? Was that her first photo? It these answer to those things are yes, then it’s likely that it was pure talent–or pure luck. But, chances are, your friend worked very, very hard at learning the art of photography.

We use “talent” as kind of generic kind of praise, but it’s not really praise, because it’s saying “you had nothing to do with the success here. It’s all straight from God.” Now, if you believe that to be the case, fine, but most of us believe that God or no God, developing talent takes work. And we don’t need talent in order to succeed: We need to work.

This is why the Human Resource habit of using the word “talent” bugs me. We say we engage in “talent acquisition” instead of “recruiting.” But, what does that mean? Do we go and pluck talent off a shelf somewhere? What if someone doesn’t have all the “talent” you need right this instant? Does it acknowledge that we need to train and develop people?

To keep reading, click here: 10 Things to Say Instead of “You’re so Talented”

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4 thoughts on “10 Things to Say Instead of “You’re so Talented”

  1. You have scratched the surface of the HR dilemma. The recent trend in human resources is change titles, change titles, change titles. There is even a strong movement to change human resources to “human capital”. Talent acquisition is one of those really stupid titles (unless you work for American Idol). Every understands what a recruiter is/does. My theory is that human resources continues to invent new names for their function, their jobs, their processes, etc to flee from the poor performance in those titles/functional description. Oh yes, “human resources business partner (which is sprouting like weeds) is one of those incredibly wrong titles. Is not everyone in management a “business partner”? Do you see any quality business partners, engineer business partners, accounting business partners?? Wake up HR? Strive to improve credibility and value. Need titles doesn’t do it.

  2. Solid Effort And Attitude can beat better Talent And Knowledge. I remember one of my high school buddies who was very sharp… However at one point he decided that he had everything he ever needed in his life: a hot car, live-in girlfriend, weed to smoke, and a job at Pizza Hut that provided him sufficient money and free food. He stopped trying, dropped out, and who knows where he is today?

  3. Whether it’s a talent or a hard-earned skill, accepting a compliment — however worded — with grace, is a matter of manners. I expect that most people realize that “talent” — like “genius” — is primarily a function of perspiration, not inspiration. Lawyers use words precisely; the average person doesn’t. So, when a non-lawyer praises someone’s “talent,” they are not discounting the amount of training, effort, etc., that went into the final product; they are simply expressing their approval. For the recipient of such a compliment to quibble and nit-pick about its wording is simply rude.

  4. I don’t really see the word “talent” as meaning “natural born / God-given / didn’t work at it at all.”

    Was Michael Jackson talented? Or Kobe? Of course. That’s not to say they didn’t work at it though. Maybe they had natural gifts, maybe they didn’t, but the term “talent” in my mind is neutral about the cause of that talent.

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