How to Make People Listen to You – Even When You Criticise

Girl Listens With Hand At Ear

Girl punching a man on his face with sheer enjoyment
How do you get someone to listen to your negative criticism? Without first knocking them, and then when they are down, telling them your message!

In this article you will read about the straight-to-the-point method, and why it does not work. You will also learn about the feedback sandwich, a more effective way to deliver criticism.

Builder Showing His Hammer
A couple of years ago, I lived in a small house in Oxie. I and my girlfriend had been out dancing on a Friday night, and had come home late. During weekends I always wake up late, and had counting on doing that this time too. At about 8am we were both awoken by the sound of someone hammering on wood.

I looked out the window, and could see that one of my neighbours was extending his porch, causing the noise at the same time. I was irritated at him, and went out to have a word with him. (This was a neighbour I hadn’t spoken to before.)

I told him that his hammering had awoken us, and it was too early to start something like that already at 8am. The neighbour defended himself, and said it was all right to start hammering at that time. I continued to insist, which made him ask me to leave his property and walk away.

I asked if he could wait next morning until a later time to hammer, but he said he couldn’t promise anything. So next night I decided to sleep in my girlfriend’s apartment instead, to be sure to get rid of that noise.

Does this sound familiar to you? You try to give justified criticism, and end up getting an enemy instead. Your straight-to-the-point method doesn’t work. You are demanding something, but does not give anything in return, that would make the other person willing to accomodate you. So how could you do it differently?

You will now learn about the feedback sandwich. How you can give criticism, which makes the other person listen to what you have to say. It is called a feedback sandwich, because your message is contained in “bread”, much like a sandwich. The “bread” you use is called positive messages.

Tasty Tuna Sandwich
A feedback sandwich looks like this:
– Positive message no. 1
– Positive message no. 2
– Criticism
– The message
– Positive message no. 3

A real example could look like this:

Me: Hi! What a fine porch you are building (Positive message no. 1). You are really a diligent man (Positive message no. 2).
Neighbour: Thank you! It has taken some time, but now it is almost finished.
Me: You started early this morning, and I understand you are eager. I and my girlfriend were out last night, and came home late. Were awoken by the hammering (Criticism). We will go out tonight too. Do you think you could wait until after 9am, until you start hammering tomorrow (The message)? I would appreciate it.
Neighbour: Oh! I’m sorry to have awoken you. I could start with something indoors tomorrow, so I will not awake you.
Me: Thank you, it would be very kind of you. I look forward to see your porch when it is finished (Positive message no. 3).

First you start with two positive messages. Then you tell what you don’t like, and after that what you would like to have instead. Finally you end with yet another positive message. Note that your positive messages must be sincere, or they will not work. Tell the truth. It works best when you mean what you are saying.

By adding positive messages into the conversation, you open the other person to what you have to say. We all like to be appreciated. When he is open to you, you can speak your message.

Note that the feedback sandwich does not guarantee that you get exactly what you want, but it does increase your chances. You will notice how much more cooperative the other person becomes.

What are your best tips for delivering criticism? Please comment below.

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2 Responses to How to Make People Listen to You – Even When You Criticise

  1. Kristin says:

    Love this feedback sandwich! It is easy to remember and a very kind – and emotionally intelligent – way to ask for what you want and maximizing the probability of getting it.
    Excellent, thank you!

  2. I am happy you liked it. I hope it will give you more good things in life.