How to make a com­plaint sand­wich

Life & Style Weekend - - YOU - With Joanne Wil­son Joanne is a neu­ropsy­chother­a­pist and re­la­tion­ship spe­cial­ist of The Con­fi­dante Coun­selling. Email jo@the­con­fi­dan­te­coun­selling.com or visit www.sun­shinecoast­coun­selling.com.

QUICK show of hands – who likes crit­i­cism?

If you raised your hand, I’m not sure I be­lieve you. Any­one who has been in a re­la­tion­ship can prob­a­bly think of a few times when they’ve given their part­ner feed­back only to have it ex­plode in their face. Or, just as likely, been the one to blow up. Or, most likely, done both. In the same con­ver­sa­tion.

Feed­back is some­thing that is a lot eas­ier to give than to re­ceive, right? Let’s take a look into how to make feed­back eas­ier to swallow. You can even try this on your boss.

A “com­plaint sand­wich” is ba­si­cally a struc­ture for your feed­back (or crit­i­cism, com­plaint, gripe etc) that will make it not only eas­ier for the re­ceiver to lis­ten to but in­spire change.

Or at least not ex­plode in your face.

A com­plaint sand­wich re­quires three in­gre­di­ents:

A pos­i­tive state­ment

The com­plaint

A sec­ond pos­i­tive state­ment.

The big­gest prob­lem to re­ceiv­ing feed­back is feel­ing at­tacked. With the com­plaint sand­wich, the meat of the prob­lem is wedged be­tween two pos­i­tive com­ments. This puts a struc­ture around the com­plaint, which makes it feel less like a per­sonal as­sault and more like, well, feed­back.

You start with some­thing you ap­pre­ci­ate about the sit­u­a­tion or per­son and end with re­as­sur­ance to calm your stress re­sponses.

If you’re think­ing to your­self, “Great, next time he leaves the toi­let seat up I’ll just say ‘John, you’re a won­der­ful fa­ther. If you leave the lid up again I will burn ev­ery­thing you own and leave you. But I re­ally like what you’ve done with your beard,’ ” then I have some sad news.

Yes, the com­plaint sand­wich will make it eas­ier to swallow. No, you can’t just say what­ever you want in the mid­dle. That would be like bit­ing into a sand­wich and find­ing a cock­roach in the mid­dle – you’re not go­ing to be happy about it.

How to make the per­fect fill­ing

Pre­pare: Be­fore you open your mouth, re­mem­ber you’re speaking to some­one you love (un­less they are your boss). Con­sider the out­come you’re seek­ing.

One com­plaint at a time: A com­plaint sand­wich is best as a toasted cheese sand­wich. Not cheese and ham or cheese and tomato or with that tinned braised beef I like. Just cheese. Pil­ing in mul­ti­ple com­plaints makes them mash to­gether and leads to the re­cip­i­ent feel­ing at­tacked. Stick to one is­sue at a time.

Make it timely: When they’re late for work or there’s man flu about, it’s not the best time. Fur­ther­more, avoid com­plain­ing about some­thing that hap­pened six months ago. You may well know the mo­men­tum a thought can get when you’ve stewed over it for way too long only to have it boil over in an un­re­lated con­ver­sa­tion. Ap­proach them while it’s fresh in your mem­ory.

This is what I felt: Take re­spon­si­bil­ity for your emo­tions. Avoid telling your part­ner what they are feel­ing (“you” talk) and speak about your feel­ings. For ex­am­ple, I feel hurt, happy, scared, frus­trated etc, as com­pared to what you’d au­to­mat­i­cally want to say, such as “You’re lazy” or “You don’t seem to care”.

Keep it civil: Re­main as calm and even-tem­pered as pos­si­ble. No­tice your tone, breath­ing, heart rate and trig­gers from their ex­pres­sion. The goal of a com­plaint is to bring at­ten­tion to an is­sue in­stead of try­ing to make them feel bad.

It is more about what they did: Sep­a­rate the be­hav­iour from the per­son. De­scribe ex­actly what you saw or heard and don’t make as­sump­tions. For ex­am­ple, “I heard the door slam.”

This is the mean­ing it had for me: We all in­ter­pret and per­ceive things dif­fer­ently. By say­ing “What I un­der­stood about this is ...” al­lows you to share your in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the sit­u­a­tion with­out ac­cus­ing your part­ner.

Ask for what you need: Make sure you tell your part­ner what you need that would help you feel bet­ter. You are en­ti­tled to re­spect­fully make a re­quest that can avoid the per­son feel­ing help­less as to what to do with your feed­back.

For­give: Once you’ve com­mu­ni­cated your thoughts and feel­ings, then in­vite peace with for­give­ness. You’ve done what you can to make the sit­u­a­tion bet­ter and it’s time to let it go.

With these tips, you’ll be on your way to pro­vid­ing – and per­haps re­ceiv­ing – more palat­able feed­back in the fu­ture.

A com­plaint sand­wich re­quires three in­gre­di­ents: a pos­i­tive state­ment, the com­plaint and a sec­ond pos­i­tive state­ment.

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