Feedback helps to develop another person’s skills or improve our relationship, but we have to know how to give it.
“Honey, your pâté is very good, but you should put more spices in it. But don’t worry, I think you’re an excellent cook.” What will this spouse hear, the compliments, the criticism or neither?
We all have to give feedback on others’ behaviour: in our boss-employee, partner and couple relationships. In the management course, we have been teaching sandwich feedback for years. This technique teaches us to give constructive criticism so that other people will improve their skills or some specific point while keeping their egos intact.
The classic technique consists of:
- Making an exact positive comment: “I appreciate how you really try hard when you take care of the cows.”
- Making a critique or a suggestion for improvement: “However, I’d like you to do the teat dip after each cow and not wait until you’ve finished milking the whole row.”
- Finishing with an overall positive comment: “In general, I’m satisfied with the work that you’re doing.”
Of course, the main objective of this technique is to give or receive criticism more easily, but is that really the case? People are not stupid! My mother would say, “When I get flowers, I expect to receive a vase!” After a few times, we end up becoming familiar with the technique, the positive comments are diluted and often so is the criticism. By trying to do everything at the same time, we do nothing.
When it’s time to make a positive comment, do so. When it’s time to make constructive criticism, do that too. However, a different approach will allow improvement of a specific point and protect the other person’s individuality (ego) while not avoiding the issue. The approach consists of making an observation, offering your suggestions by emphasizing one or two advantages the suggestions would provide and one or two problems they would help the other person avoid.
- Observation and suggestion: “I noticed that you were waiting until after you had finished milking several cows before dipping their teats. It would be preferable to do it after each cow.”
- Intended advantage: “You’re already near the cow, so you save steps by doing it right away.”
- Avoiding a problem: “That avoids the cow going to sleep without having her teats dipped and stresses her less because you’re already near her.”
By mentioning the advantages and the avoided problems, the criticism seems less threatening to the person receiving it.
- Finally, remember that when you make a compliment you must not follow it with negative criticism. Don’t think that throwing the vase won’t hurt as much because it has flowers in it! At those times, roses might seem like dandelions.
Work Psychologist, professionnal speaker, author and business coach