The Art of the Compliment Sandwich

No one likes to hear that they have messed up or that they are incompetent in some way, but no one is perfect, and mistakes are inevitable. How then do you inform someone that they are missing the mark? Offense makes people play defense so if you come straight out with the sentiment of disappointment, the person is likely to shut out your message and work on their rebuttal. Alas, the compliment sandwich to the rescue!
The bread –
This is a strategy I like to call “Charm and Disarm”. Start with a statement that acknowledges the person’s good deeds or good efforts. With this strategy, the person is more inclined to listen to you. Furthermore, if you are genuinely able to emphasize with someone, your feedback might actually be more constructive because you will have a better understanding of their intentions. First seek to understand.
The meat –
This is where you deliver the bad news. Whether the person is acting lazy, incompetent, inconsiderate or perhaps just naïve, they deserve to know they are not meeting your expectations, and you deserve the chance to communicate that shortcoming. Communication is the key, and communication breakdowns perpetuate numerous problems that otherwise wouldn’t be big enough to be considered a problem. 
How many times have you tried to tell someone something important, something you wanted them to know or wanted them to fix, and you felt they were just waiting for their turn to speak? How ironic that in this age of advanced technology and rapid communication, we as a population still struggle to talk to one another.
In conclusion, I am not suggesting you sugar-coat every negative comment or lower your standards for issues that are important to you. I am suggesting that the Compliment Sandwich can foster teamwork, understanding, clarity and actual progress.
Common example #1 – to the parent, grandparent, or roommate that buys you that token hideous holiday sweater:
“Wow, isn’t this (original, unique, colorful, vibrant, festive…). Did you pick this out just for me? You know, I’m not sure this is really my style but I appreciate the thought and it was so sweet of you to go through that trouble to find this just for me.”
 Common example #2– to the coworker who can’t cook but still tries to make everyone happy by bringing in baked goods or other treats:
“Wow, did you make these yourself? That must’ve taken you some time and energy, thank you.
(Meat A – the nice or cowardly way out) I’m trying to (watch my weight, limit my carbohydrates/fats/sweets/salt intake etc); or
(Meat B – the more direct approach). Those baked goods are a little (salty, hard, sour, undercooked etc) for my taste.
I think I’m going to have to pass. Thank you though, for your efforts.
Common Example #3 – to the employee who is not getting the task done as you asked them to:
Compliment their outfit or hairdo, or find something (anything) that they do that is good (if you can’t find one single thing, why are they still your employee?). You might say you appreciate the work they did or the energy they put into the project, then point out that you were hoping they would do A, B and C instead of X, Y and Z. Point out that, if you were them, you wouldn’t have thought to approach task A like that, you’d have approached it by (explain here what you wanted them to do in the first place so they learn something). For your closing statement, you can express to them that you are glad you had a chance to clear this up because people work better when everyone is on the same page.
If you can get over your frustration with the person and communicate your needs more effectively, you’ll find truth in the infamous lyrics, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”
Yours Truly,
Green Eyed Guide

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