Debra Swersky
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Journal

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Self-Deprecation

I’ve now finished two Adam Grant books and have a feeling that my world will never been the same. I’ve talked about Give & Take to the point where I think if I mention the book one more time in this Journal that I will lose my sister as a reader and now Originals is starting to feel eerily similar. (This too shall pass, but when does Option B come out? Did you see that it was co-authored with Sheryl Sandberg… my head just might explode.) It’s crazy to me that Grant’s books, unlike any others, have this intense marination effect on me. I’ve referred to them as fine wines that get better with age in that the content becomes more impactful the longer it’s been since you’ve read them. I’m experiencing this effect now with Originals

And so begins the series of recognizable instances where the concepts from Originals play themselves out in real life. Thus, I reflect. This past week’s concept has been “The Sarick Effect” (which doesn’t actually mean anything, but I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself… read Originals.) To summarize: “The Sarick Effect” is where you present your ideas to people who have more power than you and try to convince them to commit their resources. Except, instead of presenting the upsides and the silver lining, you present the downsides and the reasons to not get involved. I’ve interpreted this as “honest self-deprecation.” As someone who has decided to hang their hat on helping entrepreneurs/startups/small businesses present themselves and their companies more effectively, I was in awe of this concept. It was part self-deprecation, part honesty, and part genuineness. But, at the end of the day, it was reality.

Immediately, I related. Well, Originals helped in that it used examples of a company standing in front of investors saying “here’s why you shouldn’t invest in us”… so… that made it easy. But, that helped to codify the point for me. 

Here’s what happens when “The Sarick Effect” takes effect. You’re sitting in a conversation trying to understand whatever problem is being solved, situation is being presented, or argument is being made. You’re taking in information and have amassed questions to be answered. And then the person speaking says “here’s what’s wrong with everything that I just told you” or “here’s why you shouldn’t do [whatever action they had initially requested]” or, in the case of the investment pitch, “here’s why you shouldn’t invest in this company.” 

As a listener you’re disarmed. What do you do now? Think of other reasons… maybe? (It’s harder to do than you think!). You start to look at the other person a little differently. They appear smarter, more trustworthy. (If they told you their weaknesses, they must know their stuff!) At the end of the conversation you have a more favorable assessment of their idea due to your bias. (Because maybe you can help in those areas! And maybe those things aren’t that bad…)

Incredible. I never realized that my modus operandi of using self-deprecation as self-inflicted humor could actually be used to make me appear smarter or more put together or be an opportunity to invite constructive feedback. 

Lesson learned: self-deprecation of any sorts needs to be used much more wisely. It’s kind of a powerful speaking tactic. Oh, Adam...

Debra Swersky