Building a Better Sandwich

New research shows that the traditional Toastmasters sandwich evaluation method, as it is most often implemented, needs a makeover.

In the book, “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop (What Machines Teach Us about Human Relationships)” authors Clifford Nass and Corina Yen
present “Counterintuitive insights about building successful relationships-based on research into human-computer interaction.” Nass’s research shows: “Mixing criticism into praise – a popular tactic for managers – is a destructive method of evaluation.”

Don’t panic! The Toastmasters evaluation sandwhich method of ‘praise – suggest – praise’ still works. To be most effective, it just needs a bit of an emphasis shift.

What we do now:

  1. Some praise and specific examples of what the evaluator liked
  2. Then a suggestion for improvement and
  3. finally some encouragement or another positive comment.

Unfortunately that is an ineffective way to communicate the suggestions and praise.

What works:

  1. A single, specific positive praising.
  2. The the suggestion(s) then
  3. as much praise (again, specific and believable) as you have time for

Why it works best: Several aspects of how we listen and what we remember work together to make the new sandwich “taste better” and be “more (ful)filling”.

  1. What we hear last we remember most – and most strongly. Therefore lather on the specific praise and encouragement AFTER the suggestion (or criticism.)
  2. We remember criticism (or perceived criticism – even if it is portrayed as suggestion) no matter if it is early in the feedback. Putting it towards the front won’t make the evaluatee forget it!

That basically means: put the good stuff at the end, and put most of it there. It will be remembered most if it is AFTER the suggestions/criticism.

Of course, the research shows what we all know already: Specific, concrete suggestions work best. The same goes for praising. Be specific, saying “you are good” is far less effective than saying what it is, specifically, that you liked.

It’s not my theory, it’s the advice of communications experts after studying the effectiveness of various evaluation/feedback approaches.

Will you adapt to new expert advice and remake your sandwich?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *