Giving criticism isn't easy, especially if the person you're giving it to is sensitive. This approach lets you keep criticism in a positive light so your feedback comes across as constructive, not harsh. Photo by pamalamadag.
You've probably heard of giving someone a "compliment sandwich" before, where you open with something positive, deliver your critical feedback and then finish with something positive. It can work great sometimes, but if you're dealing with someone who is extra sensitive, Caroline Webb, the author of How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioural Science to Transform Your Working Life, suggests it's better to work your way around the things that might trigger someone's defences. Webb recommends the "What I Like..." feedback model for those situations:
- Tell the other person: "What I like about this is . . ." Give meaningful, specific examples of what you like, and explain why you like them. Aim for as many concrete positive points as you can. Don't rush.
- Then say: "What would make me like it even more is . . ."
You're not just telling them "It's great!" You're explaining what specifically is great and why. Doing so will make the positive points stick out more in their mind, so when you follow up with "What would make me like it even more is..." they don't just raise their shields. This also makes your critique come across as an idea that they can use as a prompt for making their work better. You're not saying that you don't like something directly (even if that is the case), you're making your point with finesse to avoid destroying their self-confidence.