Men don’t take criticism well.
(That’s putting it lightly, right?)
All you’re doing is trying to give him feedback…
And he acts like you’ve attacked him.
What’s worse, he acts that way even if you use “I” statements. You know the ones: “I feel X when you do Y.”
He acts that way EVEN if you use the sandwich technique. You know the one: start off with a compliment, deliver the feedback, and end with another compliment.
So how are you supposed to tell him anything?
Are you just supposed to put up with his behavior and learn to live with it??
Why He Reacts
No one likes being criticized by someone they care about.
It feels like you’ve let the other person down.
Instead of seeing criticism as an opportunity to improve the relationship, some men see it as evidence they can’t make their partner happy or evidence that they have failed.
Even worse, they can get triggered by even the most carefully-worded suggestion, because it reminds them of a critical parent/partner/boss in their past.
None of that is a reason to avoid talking about what needs to change.
You need to be able to communicate with each other about hard things.
But don’t start that conversation unless you’ve got THIS mindset.
The Bad Feedback Trap
If you want to learn how to give great feedback, learn from people who do it for a living:
Leadership requires delivering uncomfortable but necessary feedback.
You have to be able to say things people don’t want to hear… in a way that makes them feel motivated rather than crushed.
Feedback is one area where you don’t want to “just be honest” and “state the facts.”
You have to be super-aware of the impact of your words on the other person.
Communicate badly, and you won’t get anywhere. You’ll upset the other person and drive a wedge in your relationship.
There are two qualities that unproductive feedback shares:
Shame and/or blame.
Bad feedback shames. It makes the person feel like they did something wrong.
Bad feedback blames. It makes the person feel like it was all their fault.
When you think about what you want your guy to change about his behavior, of course it feels like what he’s doing is wrong. He shouldn’t be doing it! Of course it feels like it’s his fault—you didn’t make him act that way!
Despite positive intentions, your feedback can come across as judgmental…
Which is why you need to pass this Feedback Checklist first.
10-Point Feedback Checklist
Dr. Brené Brown is CEO of The Daring Way, a company that trains leaders to lead with courage, vulnerability, empathy, and integrity.
She’s developed a Feedback Checklist to help leaders get into the right mindset before they offer feedback.
For Dr. Brown, it isn’t the words you use that matter most. It’s the mindspace you’re in.
Before you have an important conversation, make sure you can check off the following 10 points.
- Be ready to sit down beside him. Never have this kind of conversation standing in front of him or sitting at the table across from him. You’re partners, not adversaries.
- Be ready to treat this problem as an issue that’s affecting both of you, rather than an obstacle between you. He’s not the problem—the issue is the problem.
- Be ready to listen to his perspective and accept that you might not fully understand what is going on. You’re not laying down the law; you’re figuring this out together.
- Be ready to acknowledge what he’s doing well, rather than honing in on his mistakes.
- Be ready to help him see how he can use what he’s already good at to solve this.
- Be ready to hold him responsible without any shame or blame.
- Be ready to see and acknowledge any part you might have in creating this situation.
- Be ready to appreciate his effort, rather than criticizing him for not caring.
- Be ready to take a big-picture perspective, so you can use this issue to help each other (and your relationship) grow and get better.
- Be ready to lay down your weapons and get vulnerable and share your feelings. If you’re defensive, he can’t help but get defensive himself.
If you can nod your head yes to most of these points, then you’re ready to have that hard conversation.
Which points on this checklist are easiest for you?
Which points are hardest for you?
Share them with us in the comments!