How to deliver constructive criticism that works

Of course, most of us don’t enjoy receiving criticism. I know I certainly don’t!

While it can sometimes be quite important to deliver constructive criticism, delivered the wrong way it can have little effect or, if the recipient is upset with the message, a negative effect because the recipient could well decide to obstinately dig his or her heels in and continue with the unwanted behaviour or possibly even increase it.

So we want to deliver constructive criticism in a way that will get the message across and is most likely to bring about change.

We can do this by using what is called a Feedback Sandwich as a way of delivering the message.

As the name suggests a Feedback Sandwich involves sandwiching the negative comments in between two positive comments.

So the format is:

positive comment -> constructive criticism -> positive comment.

A work example could be as follows:

“Mary, you did a great job on that report which I really appreciated. However please don’t forward your reports onto our clients before I’ve had a chance to look at them as I have to take responsibility for the things that you say in them. Other than that, I just want to congratulate you on your enthusiasm.”

And a parent talking to a child the conversation could go something like this:

“Thank you very much for helping me carry in the shopping, John. I really appreciate that. I wonder if you could use that spirit of cooperation to tidy up your bedroom because it’s in a terrible mess and has been like that for some time. Apart from that, your help around the house generally has certainly lightened my workload recently.”

By sandwiching the constructive criticism in between two positive comments, the recipient is less likely to be resistant to making the change that is being suggested and much more likely to act on it.

Try this next time you are in the position of giving constructive criticism either at work, socially or at home.

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