How to Give a Feedback Sandwich

One Methods:wikiHow Feedback Sandwich Example

Giving critical feedback to someone in order to change behavior is a delicate process. It is very important to assure that you approach the task with sensitivity to the person's feelings to avoid the common problem of a very defensive reaction.

If it's done properly, however, the recipient will take the feedback positively and good results will follow, naturally! One very effective way to do this is to "sandwich" the coaching inside other, positive statements. The following steps outline an effective way of doing just that whether in business, with friends or parent to child. A similar technique, known as the "Compliment Sandwich" has related steps. The Feedback Sandwich is most often used for coaching and support whereas the Compliment Sandwich is more oriented to softening or disguising required criticism.


"You really did an excellent job with that 'Treating People Fairly' essay - everybody has been very impressed! In the future, it would be better to avoid naming people that haven't accepted all the methods you outline. It's great that you put so much thought into this and a lot of people are going to benefit from it!"

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    Prepare: Do not go into the situation without careful forethought and planning. A good outline is a tool for success. Without one, it is easy to get off track and you can lose control of the conversation. Know exactly what you're going to say and how you're going to say it.
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    Compliment - Identify the positive: Find something significant that the individual did. This needs to be related to the coaching you're going to give, and needs to be reasonably close in time. If, for example, all the white clothes came out of the washer pink because a red shirt was thrown in, well... "I really appreciate your helping with the laundry!" might be a way to start the conversation.
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    Coach - Present the facts: Now, you have their attention and they are in a receptive frame of mind. Pause just a second to let that feeling solidify, then lead directly into the coaching. Avoid using the word "but" as in "but next time" since that can create the defensive atmosphere that you're trying to avoid. Be direct and firm, but never angry and never demeaning. Communication is a science and if you want positive results, you have to be very... scientific. "I'm going to work with you on how to sort clothes so we don't end up with pink socks again."
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    Encourage - Give a bright outlook: When you gave the coaching, you inevitably caused some mental deflation in the person. Do not leave that in place; it has to be removed quickly, but correctly. Project a positive outcome of future efforts. The natural conclusion is that there was a good base to start (the initial praise), there are ways to improve that base (coaching), and combining those will produce even better results. "It's great to have another set of helping hands and everybody will have more time for those after-dinner Wii battles!"
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    Follow Up Later: Don't wait until after the next issue arises to monitor the behavior change; be helpfully inquisitive and continue promoting change. The objective is to anchor the positive nature of the change in the mind of the individual. If you just let things drop, your coaching might be forgotten. Without consistent reinforcement, a process called "extinction" sets in: The desired behavioral change will not materialize.

wikiHow Feedback Sandwich Example

Here is an example of a feedback sandwich that one might give on a wikiHow talk page.

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    Compliment: Thanks for patrolling recent changes. I'm impressed you patrolled 400 edits today and rolled back a lot of vandalism.
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    Coach: I did want to coach you that we shouldn't NFD an article on how to rock climb for the reason of dangerous. The NFD-Dangerous reason is really reserved for things that are both irrational and dangerous. We generally use it to delete things that are borderline joke articles / truly crazy ideas like "How to Drive Blindfolded in Heavy Traffic" We don't want to delete all topics that are merely dangerous, but still rational. Otherwise we wouldn't have articles on topics like rock climbing, SCUBA diving, skydiving, etc.
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    Encourage: Thanks again for patrolling RC. You did a great job and have really improved the quality of the information on wikiHow. I sure hope you keep up the good editing here.


  • However..." Coaching isn't the solution to every situation. The 80's management model is being overtaken by a model that is more adaptive to individuals, their experience, and the problem at hand. Sometimes coaching is the appropriate solution, sometimes a slap on the wrist is needed, and sometimes immediate dismissal is required. Don't use coaching as a buzzword or crutch when something else is truly called for. On wikiHow an example would be a wrongly formatted article, whose editor might need coaching. Also, repeated article 'sabotage' after enough previous warnings would warrant a ban.
  • Honesty is very important for effective feedback. Avoid compliments in your feedback if positive things are hard to find.
  • Be continuously aware of how the way feedback is to be received. This will allow for changes in approach if the need arises.
  • Practice: It's a good idea to practice in front of a mirror - or better yet in front of another person - before you do this. You want the presentation to be smooth with a good flow.
  • Coach Regularly: If you make this a normal routine, you will get better and the individuals you are coaching will become less apprehensive about it. Don't become obsessive about it, though, or you will lose both credibility and impact.
  • Stay Positive: If you go into this with a positive attitude the exercise will have a positive outcome. Likewise, a negative attitude on your part will guarantee a futile result.


  • Do not use this repeatedly for the same issue: When discussing a very serious issue or a problem you have been over with this person before, this technique is not effective and a more direct approach is required.
  • Don't be condescending: You are trying to change behavior. Don't take an overtly superior attitude; don't be indignant; don't be pretentious... that is guaranteed to damage the communication effort.
  • Avoid blame: What you're doing is pointing out something that needs to change. How you got here isn't important. What's important is where you are now, where you're going, and how you'll get there. As a whole, the conversation must be positive. Yes, there will be a negative part, but the two positives will outweigh that. Leave your listener with an upbeat attitude and you'll get the results you want.

  • Don't give only positive feedback during this process : If you only give compliments during sandwich sessions, people will start to cringe when you start saying good things about them and wonder what they've done wrong.
  • Make the compliments sincere and related: People will notice if you're patronizing them - the intent will be obvious and the technique has a lower probability of success.
  • Be Genuine: A lot has been said on being consistent, but keep in mind that when changing your delivery of criticism it may come off as new. Be real and strive towards the change in behavior each and every time. Remember: change the Belief not just the Behavior and in so doing the behaviors will remain more in line.

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