We all want to give honest and constructive feedback when a fellow author asks us for our opinion, but most of us fear hurting their feelings or being called ‘mean. Luckily, Sarah Brown (Sarah D’Anne is her author name) was willing to share the Sandwich Method with us, something she was introduced to in college. Stick around to find out more. 🙂
The Sandwich Method may sound tasty, but you can spoil it if you don’t have the right ingredients.
Criticism has such a negative connotation. If you look it up on the internet, the first two entries say the act of passing judgement. One entry reads a critical comment.
Critical, inclined to find fault, or to judge.
Now, the word critique means a detailed evaluation. That’s not so bad, right?
Why am I giving you a vocabulary lesson? To show you that the negativity is right in the definition. Is that why we, as human beings, don’t like that word or that action?
Possibly. And since we don’t like this word or action, but have to face it everyday in many different situations, we must learn how to give criticism in a positive way. Positive reinforcement causes positive outcomes (that’s just basic psychology). I am here to help you with that.
Here is a system I have found, and used, that proves this previous statement (and the point of this post): the “Sandwich Method.”
Even though I learned this about four years ago in college, from a teacher of mine, Tim Hall, I realize that this is more common than I thought. But, I figured that if I bring it to your attention, you may have an easier time recognizing it, and utilizing it.
So, here’s how it works: bread, ingredients, bread.
Bread: (a compliment). For example: “I really like the fact that you know how to spell.”
Ingredients: (what are the problems? What are the areas that need improvement?) For example, “I like your spelling, but your punctuation could be better.”
Bread: a compliment and/or a solution to the problem(s). For example, “But like I said, your spelling is awesome. Keep up the good work.” Followed by, “Might I suggest you experiment with punctuation, or go read a short story, or go look for help on the internet.”
Positive reinforcement: The Sandwich Method
Positive outcomes: In other words, the author won’t tell you you’re a mean person for telling them their story is terrible: “Thank you so much for being so kind! I’m going to go work on improvements right now.”
Remember to stay positive when you tell someone what is “wrong” with what they have written. It may not be wrong, but it’s not great, that’s what you have to keep in mind. Find something positive, and let that be your starting point. If you show someone that you see something good, they’ll know that they don’t totally suck, and that will make them more acceptable to what is wrong/not as good.
As for how to take criticism, I must admit, I am no role model. The last time I had someone critique something of mine, I thought they hated it and I wallowed in self-pity for two days. Even though he clearly told me upfront that he liked it. I only saw the 70+ things he pointed out.
Being on the receiving end of the Sandwich Method is a different story. You must remember, your story is good, but it could be better, and the critic is only trying to help you get there. Keep in mind, everyone has weaknesses (mine is show don’t tell. I’m a big teller, have been since elementary school). You’re never going to get a clean critique, so expect some errors. Just don’t wallow in self-pity for two days over them.
And that is your psychology lesson for the day.
Sarah D’Anne (Sarah Brown) is a twenty-something author who lives on a lake in Huddleston, VA. with her mom and six cats. When she’s not writing, she works in a deli where she finds plenty of character and plot ideas to last her a lifetime. Head on over to her blog, Unexplored Boundaries (www.unexploredboundaries.wordpress.com) to learn more about her, her life, and what she is currently working on.