Yesterday’s blog post introduced the idea
of the feedback sandwich.
Constructing a Sandwich
Simply put when we have to give
constructive feedback to someone
it is useful to introduce the feedback
with some sort of positive statement.
This is the first slice of bread in the sandwich.
The next step is to give the actual feedback
that you want to share with the person.
The cheese, the meat or the tofu
depending on your particular diet.
Finally we conclude with another positive statement
in order to leave on a good note.
I recommend reading yesterday’s post before
reading this one just to get the background.
Any Skill Takes Time and Practice to Develop
I learn this concept in the early 90’s and it has
stayed with me ever since.
When I first started using it I was
awkward and clumsy in my approach.
I am sure it felt forced and artificial at times.
Over the years I have become better at
delivering the sandwich and understand it in a deeper way.
I believe that any skill that we learn and practice
over an extended period of time is like this.
The key is to keep at it and not give up.
The awkward stage eventually ends.
In today’s post I’m going to discuss each part of the process in more detail.
The First Slice of Bread
The purpose of a good preamble or introduction
to the feedback you have to share is that
it helps to create the most receptive condition possible.
Pain and Anger
There are two main negative reactions
people have to receiving feedback.
The first is anger (or defensiveness)
The second is pain.
Neither of these two reactions are very helpful to our goal
and the reason we use the sandwich is to minimize them.
Both of these reactions come from similar causes.
Usually it is an inner wound that is triggered
by receiving criticism of some sort.
An Open Wound Hurts When Prodded
If you have an open wound and someone
pokes at it with their finger it is likely you are going
to recoil and protect yourself.
You may also become angry and lash out at them.
It is much the same with an inner wound.
In fact the reactions can be much stronger.
Try and Sense the Potential Wound of the Person You’re Communicating Wtih
When preparing to give some kind of constructive or
critical feedback to somebody if we can feel into where
they might be hurt or defensive we can use that awareness
to soften the blow so that the message can be better received.
You Hurt My Feelings
For example I might want to tell you that
the way you talked to me the other day hurt my feelings
and I would appreciate it if you would be
more conscious of the tone of voice you use when speaking to me.
In thinking about expressing that
I realize you might feel attacked.
You might feel I think you don’t care
and that you are not a good friend.
It is likely that you have been criticized as a child
for similar things and therefore might feel hurt at this implication.
On top of that my purpose is not to tell you that
you are a bad friend, but I value our friendship
and I want it to only get better.
I Enjoy Our Friendship
Keeping all this in mind I would probably start by saying:
“I really enjoy spending time with you.
I value our friendship very much.
Communicating and learning with you
is an important part of my life.”
This lets you know that I care about you
and what I’m about to tell you is in the context of
how much I value our friendship.
The Middle of the Sandwich Addresses Needs
The next part is to offer the feedback.
It is good to talk about what you want to express,
but also the reason behind it.
Usually there is a need or a feeling connected to
the feedback and when this is clearly expressed
it makes it easier to understand.
In this case I might say:
“One thing I value deeply about our relationship
is how safe I feel with you.”
So this immediately lets the person know that
safety is something you care about in your relationship.
Now You Can Share The Feedback
Then in actually offering the feedback I would say:
“The other day something happened between us
that made me feel a little less safe
and that’s not something I want to feel with you.
Therefore I wanted to share what happened with you
so that we can discuss it and come to an understanding.
When we were discussing… the other day
the tone of voice and choice of words you used
made it difficult for me to hear and even a little painful.
It’s hard for me to be talked to that way
because I feel attacked invalidated.”
The Story So Far
At this point you have started by giving
the context for your feedback.
That is that you care about your friendship
and want it to be better.
Then you gave the need that is at
the core of the feedback which is
your desire to feel safe in the relationship.
Then you expressed the action
that actually made you feel less safe.
The Final Slice of Bread – Take the Edge Off the Pain
The final step is to cap it off with
something positive loving and constructive.
The reason for this is even with the care
taken in the initial delivery
there is still going to be some pain attached to the experience.
A well thought out/felt out ending
can make all the difference.
I Care About You
“I hope we can work through this because
I care about you a lot and we always have so much fun together.
Your friendship really is one of the
most important things in my life and
that’s why I want to take great care of it.”
Thinking and Communicating Deeply Has Great Benefits
It might seem like a lot of work to put into simply telling somebody
I didn’t like the way you spoke to me the other day,
but as usual the effort is worth the results.
If we can remember that the reason we’re offering the feedback
is not just to vent, but to actually create some sort of change
then it makes sense to do it consciously and intelligently.
I prefer to do a little more thinking and put in a little more work
in order to communicate in the most
effective and compassionate way possible.