Using the Positivity Sandwich to Share Difficult Information

Do people tell you you're being rude when you're just being honest? Do you get accused of being too mean or aggressive in your communications? This communication technique may be just the thing to help soften your approach and be more effective in talking to others, while still allowing you to stay real and speak the truth. 

The idea of using a Positivity Sandwich is often taught to business leaders for giving constructive feedback. It can be difficult to share information that may be received negatively by the other party. By using this strategy, you are able to let the other person know that you appreciate their positive attributes, while still communicating what is making you unhappy.

What Makes a Positivity Sandwich?

Just like a sandwich has three main parts (bread, fillings (or the "meat"), and bread), so does the Positivity Sandwich.

Part 1: Positive Statement or Acknowledgment (Bread #1)

By starting with something positive, you are already priming your listener to be receptive to any feedback or information you may share next. A helpful tip is making sure this relates to the main topic you want to share.

Part 2: Feedback or Potentially Uncomfortable Information (Fillings/the "Meat")

This is the part where you get to be honest and share your information. There are definitely some strategies that are more effective than others to use in this section. I highly recommend using "I Feel" statements or "DEAR MAN" here.

Part 3: Positive Statement or Acknowledgment (Bread #2)

Ending on a positive note can help communicate that you are sharing this information because you care about the other person and your relationship. It also makes it easier to continue the conversation in a more pleasant manner so that everyone can feel supported and heard.

How Do I Use A Positivity Sandwich?

Using the Positivity Sandwich to Share Uncomfortable or Difficult Information

Now that you know the parts of a Positivity Sandwich, let me share some examples with samples on how to use this approach.

Example #1: You're feeling a little angry about something that happened at school and you don't want to talk about it. Yet your parents keep asking "What's wrong?"

Sample #1:

Positive Statement: I know you're asking "What's wrong" because you care and you're concerned about me.

Feedback: However, I feel aggravated and disrespected when you keep asking me because I think you're not listening to me when I say I don't want to talk about it. 

Positive Statement: I I need you to let me have some time and then I can talk with you about it. 

Example #2: Instead of going to the movies on Saturday like you discussed, your boyfriend wants you to go to a friend's party with him and lie to your parents. You don't feel comfortable lying to your parents.

Sample #2:

Positive Statement: I really enjoy spending time with you and we have the best times together.

Feedback: I feel uncomfortable that you're asking me to lie to my parents because their trust means a lot to me.

Positive Statement: I think we could still have a great time at the movies like we talked about earlier.

I use the Positivity Sandwich all the time both in my personal and professional communications. I have had great success in having the other person not only hear what I have to say, but respond respectfully. 

I'd love to hear how you're using the Positivity Sandwich. Feel free to share with me your examples and results in the Comments below.

Teen Therapist Mallory Grimste | Woodbridge, CT

About Mallory Grimste, LCSW

Mallory Grimste, LCSW is a mental health therapist in Woodbridge, CT. She loves helping tweens, teens and young adults struggling with Anxiety (... and other Big Emotions) find what works for them.

Originally a Jersey girl, she loves the beach, sunglasses and iced coffee. Her favorite coping skills are deep breathing, listening to music, and watching Scandal.

Want to know more about Mallory, or how she can help? Click Here.

Mallory Grimste, LCSW - Teen Therapist

Mental Health Counseling for Anxious Tweens, Teens, and Young Adults | Woodbridge, CT