Try Giving a “Compliment Sandwich”
The “compliment sandwich” is what a life coach named Celes Chua has described as a way to give criticism sandwiched between positive statements.
Begin by telling something that is positive, and then get into your criticism, only to close on more praise. This will convey how they can improve without making them feel bad about it.
Make Sure the Criticism Is Not Personal
When you give criticism of something somebody does, make sure that you do not deliver it in a way that makes it seem as though you are criticizing them.
There can be a fine line between someone’s work and identity, so this is not an easy balance, but being more specific about your critique helps. For example, instead of telling somebody that their writing is poor, you can say that their word choice and structure could use work, making it less about their writing in general and more about specific elements.
In general, being specific is a good idea when you give criticism. It will make it clear where improvement needs to be made, and it also does not make it feel as though the problems are too large.
For example, it is better to say, “Do you think you could take the dogs for a walk more often?” than it is to say, “I have to take care of the dogs all on my own and you never help out.”
Qualify Things With “I Feel”
Even when you have to give somebody a harsh truth, there are ways to dull the blow. One of them is to start your sentence with “I feel” or “In my opinion” or a similar qualifier. This is an especially good idea with children, who are not great at receiving criticism.
For example, saying “You never listen” or “You don’t appreciate me” can make somebody feel very hurt, even if it is true. However, if you say, “In my opinion, you do not always listen when I am talking” or “I feel as though you do not always appreciate what I do for you,” the message will go down more easily.
It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It
When giving criticism, your tone really is everything. Giving minor criticisms with a harsh tone can hurt someone’s feelings and feel unnecessary, while big criticisms with a light tone can be effective and appreciated.
Remember when giving criticism to make it clear you are not angry with them, and the goal is to help them improve. To help find the right tone, try to imagine somebody giving you the same criticism.