How do you feel when someone sends you an email thanking you for something you did and telling you what a great job you did?
Feels good, right?
Now think about how you feel when you get a curt email pointing out several small mistakes in a big project you spent hours working on.
All of that warm positive emotion goes away in a hurry. You feel criticized and under appreciated.
That’s just what happened to me this morning when a colleague shot off a brief email like this:
Hey Andrea. Just read the material. Please note the typos on pages 23, 42 and 36. And where were the additions I asked for on the list on page 52?
I had spent a long time conceiving the project and developing the material and all I heard was what needed to be corrected.
I felt myself close down and get grumpy. And when you’re feeling like that, your creative energy and excitement vanish.
Believe me, when someone is feeling criticized, it’s not good for the project!
So how can you give critical feedback in a way that doesn’t suck the energy and excitement out of the room?
Try the Oreo Cookie Approach
Sandwich your corrections or critical feedback between two honest, positive statements.
Here’s an example of how my colleague might have used the Oreo Cookie approach with me.
Cookie layer 1:
Thanks Andrea for doing a great job pulling this all together. I know you’ve worked hard on it and I love the way it’s organized.
While you’re finishing it up, here are a couple of things I caught when I was reading it. Three typos — pages 23, 42 and 56. And while you’re add it, I’d love you to update the list on page 55. I hope you find these helpful.
Cookie layer 2:
I’m so excited to see the finished product. I think it’s going to be a great addition to the field. Thanks for all of your hard work on it. I’m so pleased to be part of this project with you.
What a Difference a Few Words Make
The two cookie layers make the corrections easy to swallow. In fact, with this approach, the corrections don’t read as criticisms, they read as simple corrections.
Now, I know full well that my colleague doesn’t think I’m fool. And I don’t think he had any intention of being nasty or critical. He just was in a hurry to send feedback.
But, if you take just a bit more time and couch your feedback in between sweeter layers, you’ll find that your work and your relationships will all benefit.
Give Someone Feedback Using the Oreo Cookie Approach
With just a little practice, you’ll find that it’s easy to give constructive feedback with this model. You’ll start noticing more of the things that are great about your friends and colleagues. And you may find that has bigger (and more positive) consequences than you ever imagined.
Share you’re experience with the Oreo Cookie approach in the comments below.
(With thanks to Sali Taylor, my wonderful sometimes-coach, who first taught me this strategy. Sali is also a remarkable artist and open-hearted human being!)