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Critical feedback

Giving critical feedback is always tough

Not everyone is receptive to criticism. People usually focus on information that confirms their existing views and ignore dissenting opinions. So it’s hard to get them to listen to anything less than a ringing endorsement. Especially with their pride.

Some people take offense to being criticized.

So how do I communicate useful critical feedback; I make criticism sandwich – positive bread on either side of the negative filling.

Rather than just saying what I don’t like, I sandwich the negative between two pieces of positive. A good criticism sandwich has three ingredients.

1) First, I Start with Something Good

I start with something affirmative. “I really like the approach here because it does X, Y, Z.”

2) Second, I Add the Criticism

Then, only after I’ve put a good amount of effort into saying something positive, I mention the issues that need to be addressed.

3) Third, I Add a Positive Closer

Finally, once I’ve finished the critical comments, I top everything off with a positive ending: “But again, I really think this is off to a good start, it just needs a little sharpening.”

Compared to being critical, a criticism sandwich puts my clients at ease and makes them willing to listen. People react against things they don’t want to hear. They shut down and think about all the reasons why what you are saying isn’t right. They stop listening and start arguing.

I show people that I’m their friend, not an enemy, and they’re more primed to listen to what I have to say.

A criticism sandwich also makes the person leveling the criticism look better. Rather than seeming like a Negative Nelly, they seem more like a Constructive Chris. Someone who wants to help.


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