Have you ever been told that the way to give constructive criticism/feedback is to do the sandwich method?
You may like this and find it to be effective.
Me? I think it’s utter bullshit.
What is the person receiving the ‘constructive criticism’ most likely to remember? They are most likely going to remember the negative, because for some reason humans are trained to give greater weight to criticism than compliments. I believe this has a great deal to do with how we (literally) educate young people, and that is a subject for another day.
Today, I want to share with you a way to give someone feedback that is free from evaluation – a framework for sharing your experience that is rooted in compassion, seeded with your personal experience, and grows into a data set that the person who is receiving the feedback can actually use.
I am making a specific and intentional distinction between giving feedback and evaluating/criticizing. The two are so often conflated, but they are not synonyms in my world. Feedback is simply stating one's experiences, from one's perspective, in a way that is observational. Evaluation is about the editorial pieces - what you liked, what you didn't like, etc...
As with all tools; your mileage may vary. I'm presenting an introduction here - I think that this kind of conversation takes practice with others in a workshop setting, or coaching/counseling context before laying it on your relationships.
1. Gain consent
2. Use observational language based on your personal experience
3. Let it be
Step 1 - Consent
I’m flabbergasted that this even needs to be highlighted, and if you have feedback for someone, get their permission before you give it, OK? I believe that a feedback loop is something best built over time – in specific contexts – and with buy-in. That means you might need to do some groundwork with your person in order to co-create a safe and consensual space for the sharing.
Step 2- Share
The meat of your work in this formula is in the second step, where you use observational language based on your personal experience. When intimacy is involved (yes – I’m talking about sex), I find that using the language of the senses can be power-full.
Other sentence starters include, but are not limited to:
I like it when
(If you’re familiar with the work of Marshall Rosenberg, this is likely to sound familiar)
According to this model, there isn't a need for 'because', or 'however', or any other conjunction - not when giving feedback. You simply state your experience. Observational language gives the person receiving feedback something extremely useful - a view into your experience.
What’s the most important here, I believe, is that you abstain from saying things like ‘it would be better for me if you would________’ and ‘I felt like you needed to__________’ etc.
Step 3 - let it be.
This means you offer feedback in a similar way as you might offer a dish at a potluck - put it out to be taken - or not. Feedback is about you - it isn't about them - even if they asked for it. To my mind, this creates a context of sovereignty in which the person receiving the feedback can choose what/if to do with it. If you have read my article about ways to fuck up your relationships, this step avoids the big one: Be Controlling.
That's it - a 3-step model for giving feedback. I'll write about offering evaluation/criticism another day.