How to Help a Tough Message "Go Down"

Thoughts from Heather Larson

Everyday it seems there is a new method or platform designed to help people communicate with one another. With all of these new communication methods, I have found a need to learn and then try to teach my kids good etiquette, as well. Whether it is email, text, Facebook or another platform, the goal in communication remains the same. We want to be heard and understood.

 This morning, my son needed to respond to an email from a fellow class officer in his school. He was looking to me for advice on how to communicate the fact that he didn’t agree with the leader’s ideas. He wanted to show that he liked and respected the leader, but didn’t like his idea. I encouraged him to use the tried and true “sandwich approach.” 

 When I have a suggestion or complaint that I want to “go down well,” I use the sandwich approach. The first layer of bread is a compliment or encouragement of what is going well. “I like the way you ran our meeting and kept us on topic.”

 The meat of the message might be a suggestion to add or change something or even a complaint or criticism.  “I’m not sure that students will be committed to your idea about the service project. I am wondering if we could have a brainstorming session to hear the ideas of all of the officers and decide together what the project should be.”

 The last piece of bread is the thank-yous  for the effort or contribution. “Thank you for working so hard as our student leader. I know you take a lot of time to make this senate a success.”

This approach makes what might be “tough to swallow” go down much easier. It helps keep people open to the feedback and less defensive, too. 

This sandwich approach works in any relationship. Think of your home. Is there a message you would like to communicate to your spouse or child? Think first about what that person is doing well. How can you thank them or compliment them on something specific that you appreciate about them. Try to think of at least two so that you can build your sandwich and slip the “meat” in where it has the “best chance of going down.” 

It’s not hard. It may take a little more time and effort, but my experience is that it has brought me the best chance of being heard and understood. Let me know how it works for you!

Heather Larson

Family Relationship Coach