Stop Serving Up Compliment Sandwiches
You know the dish. We’ve all eaten and most likely served them.
A criticism slapped between two slices of compliments. It’s like putting liverwurst between two slices of warm, freshly-baked bread, thinking this will make the liverwurst palatable.
No one is fooled. Criticism is still liverwurst. The bread doesn’t disguise anything. And while the liverwurst might be ingested, this is not a great way to earn trust.
The compliment sandwich is stale. There’s a better way.
In her book Radical Candor, Kim Scott gives us a better framework for feedback about anything.
We don’t have to be jerks. Find something you like. Anything you like. Beautiful cover design. Immaculate punctuation. Your friendly spirit. Positive is always there. Find it. Find all of it. Express it.
This is a better approach than “critique” or “feedback”. Concern means you care. Concern expresses empathy for the work and a genuine desire to make the thing better. I’ve told you what I like about the presentation you’ve just spent two weeks creating. Now - a couple of things I’m concerned about. Help me understand. Are my concerns justified? Or are they legitimate? People are much more open to feedback when it feels like you care about them and their work.
“This is terrible” is not helpful feedback. “I have these concerns, and wonder if these changes and adjustments will help this become better” is helpful. Providing helpful suggestions for another person’s work (after saying what you like and what you’re concerned about) shows you’ve put thought into their project. You’re not simply being an opinionated jerk.
The smorgasbord of “likes, concerns, suggestions” is much more appetizing than a compliment sandwich.
And it’s actually helpful.