So often in life we need to communicate something difficult to someone and we don’t know how to say it. The communication could be to a close friend, family member or a work colleague. The subject may be trivial but important enough that there needs to be a resolution around the topic that continues to arise. The challenge is how to be tactful and speak one’s truth. We may feel, “‘how can I possibly say this in a kind way that will not alter or damage the dynamic of the relationship”? We all know words have resonance and we cannot take them back. Being on the receiving end of an ill spoken criticism hurts and tends to make a person want to shut down or get defensive. Most of us have learned to forgive but we never really forget. Words are powerful.
This technique of giving constructive criticism is called, “the Sandwich Technique.” I am sure some of you may have heard of it.
Before you begin speaking your truth imagine what it will achieve (your intention). Ask yourself “how will my words “land” on this person. We all hear things differently and though it is not possible or even healthy to completely imagine how someone may receive you. Set your intention for saying what you need to say. This will help to keep your thoughts clear and maintain speaking from a heart centered perspective. An example of an intention may be to have a deeper and clearer connection in my relationship with this person.
Begin with a genuine compliment (after all you would not bother to communicate your criticism unless you cared for this person). Be sure that it is a genuine compliment otherwise you and the recipient will not be open to the growth that will take place once a resolution has occurred. If it is not genuine it will feel like false flattery and that is pointless and surface.
Now, the challenging communicative part where you speak your constructive criticism. Be mindful of your original intention and keep it simple.
Finally end at a positive, genuine place. This could be your original and genuine compliment re-stated with something spoken from the heart about your investment in the relationship. This can even be your intention spoken clearly and kindly out loud. This will be the last thing they hear so the value of it lingers. Remember when you speak this last part it will come directly after the constructive criticism so be mindful that they are in a more vulnerable or possibly defensive place.
This may seem like a lot of work to simply speak your mind/truth. You may feel that you prefer to speak your mind, tell it how you see it or tell the truth and be honest. All of this (your truth) remember is your point of view and the person you are speaking to may hear your words/critique/suggestion completely opposite of what you mean. Consider how your words “LAND” on someone. Literally the way they will receive them from their perspective. You may not get the desired effect you are looking for if you simply blurt out your truth.
The Sandwich Technique works for small things as well as large and complex ones. Remember your genuineness and the intention with which you have set (before you begin). Is the Sandwich Technique manipulative? Well, you are still saying what you need to convey hopefully without harming yourself or others. It is a kinder approach and it is a smart technique in improving how to think before you speak.