When asked what are some keys to a healthy and successful relationship there are a variety of responses you may receive such as trust, understanding, patience and effective communication. What is effective communication? In my opinion and from my experience, effective communication is honest, objective, constructive and delicate. It is not just for romantic relationships, but for relationships period whether it’s work, community, friendships, etc. Like most relationships, we reach a dead end point, we get angry and frustrated with one another, our views shift, and we have disagreements all of which are healthy signs of growth, but how do we communicate these growth changes and disagreements in a healthy manner? How do we communicate these things without ruining relationships, hurting feelings or making yourself out to be the big jerk on campus? The Sandwich Method.

What is the Sandwich Method?

A friend of mine explained it to me in simple terms. Whenever a problem arises, our usual instinct is to attack it. We confront the situation in full anger, rage, frustration and whatever other emotions we have and the person we are spilling them out to retaliates by either responding at a similar level or shutting down completely and at the end of it all: nothing was solved OR a rash decision was made that is hard to undo.

The Sandwich Method requires some extra thought on the carryout process. It follows the model: positive|negative|positive. When approaching a situation you want communication to be delicate, so rather than being hostile begin by highlighting a positive. Tell the person something positive that is related to the situation. That should be the bottom piece of bread on the sandwich. So begin by saying…

“Hey you did a great job on….”

“That’s was really impressive how you…”

“I like the way you…”

By doing this, you are setting the tone of the conversation and creating a safe and opened space. You are letting the person know that you have an objective and constructive criticism. Once you have created this atmosphere, you can now get into the meat and cheese of the sandwich, but be careful not to over stuff it.

You want your communication to be honest and objective and constructive. If there is something you believe a person needs to work on address it in the present. Do NOT feel like you should start dishing out an entire history of this person’s behavior for credibility in your argument, but address how you feel in that moment, how this person’s behavior is affecting you presently.

DO watch your tone no matter how frustrated you are and fed up. It’s rare that anyone wants to hear anything negative about themselves even in the kindest sense, so be delicate. You’d want the same in return.

The last piece of the sandwich is the conclusive end solution. This should also end on a positive note. If communication is to be effective that means it should address AND solve a problem if there is one. If you’re just aimlessly attacking and rambling then don’t expect anything to change.

Communicating can be hard especially when you don’t know how a person will respond. Over time the Sandwich Method can be a very effective way to being a great friend, leader, girlfriend/boyfriend, parent, etc. because it’s aim is to establish understanding, accountability and shared responsibility. It’s reduces anger and hostility. It also creates a level of comfort between parties involved and a safe space to address problems as they arise which contributes to relationship growth.

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