The Secret to Giving Positive Feedback without Hurting Anyone’s Feelings

Do you find that most people, whether it’s your kids or your employees, get defensive when you give them feedback? Have you struggled with how to give positive feedback in a way that it will actually be received? If so, then you’re in luck. You’re about to learn a secret technique, not taught in schools, to giving constructive criticism that will actually get you the outcomes you desire.

By learning this technique, you WILL be able to change your kids, significant other, employees, and even crabby old family members in positive ways.

Are you ready to learn the secret technique for giving feedback that actually works and doesn’t burn bridges? For a limited time, unlock the secret with 3 easy payments of…  just kidding.

The secret to giving good feedback is called… the hamburger method.


The hamburger method for giving feedback goes like this:

  • Good
  • Bad
  • Good

You were expecting something more profound or difficult? Fortunately, that’s it. The hamburger method means that before giving any constructive criticism, you first say something nice. And after giving any constructive feedback, say something nice again.

Let’s walk through an example, and then explain why it works.

Imagine you have an 8 year old son that’s left a big mess in your kitchen.

If you’re like most parents, when you see the mess you get angry and shout, “Clean up your mess Bobby. I told you before. Come clean this up. You’re such a slob. If you leave it like this again you’re grounded”. Sound familiar?

When children receive this kind of “feedback”, they feel criticized and judged. They often become defensive and negative. Verbal abuse causes adrenaline and other stress compounds to be released in the child’s blood stream and they enter fight or flight mode. Neither party ends up happy or receptive.

But now that you know about the hamburger method, you won’t make that mistake. You’ll say something like this instead: “Hi Bobby. Thanks for the great job getting ready this morning. You’re a great kid. I love you. Could I give you a little feedback? You left a mess in the kitchen. Would you mind cleaning it up, and making sure to leave it clean after every use? It’s important we all do our part to have a nice home. Thanks son. I really appreciate you. You’re a wonderful boy. Thank you for helping.”

That certainly felt like a softer way to handle the situation. Let’s walk through the parts of the hamburger method that make this work.

The Compliment Bun

Whenever you give someone a compliment, they become more soft and receptive to feedback. People want to hear more compliments about themselves so after just one compliment they start to listen. The old saying is true, “flattery gets you everywhere.”

Next time you’re trying to give someone feedback, start by giving a compliment.

If you can’t think of a compliment, then you should definitely NOT jump to the feedback patty. If you can’t see someone through a lens of appreciation, it means you’re looking at them the wrong way. Your perspective is negative and incorrect, and you need to soften up before taking any action. Until you can look at someone through eyes of love and appreciation, do not give negative feedback.

The Feedback Patty

After the first compliment bun, try to make it clear that you’re about to give feedback. If you’re not sure exactly what to say, you can literally just say, “Can I give you some feedback?” This obvious and clear framing helps people become receptive to what you have to say next.

The Context Condiments

After giving the feedback, be sure to explain WHY the child should follow the feedback, how it will benefit them, and why you’re giving it. Don’t just issue a blind command. Explain why it’s a good command.

For example, after asking a child to clean up their mess, you can explain to them that good people clean up after themselves, and you want them to grow up to be a great person, and we are all expected to leave things better than we found them, etc… Explaining why is like putting ketchup on your feedback patty. It makes it go down easier.

The Compliment Bun Again

Don’t forget, hamburgers have two buns. Sometimes feedback is tough to swallow, even when people are receptive. It’s important to wash down feedback with some more appreciation and compliments.

In short, don’t skip the buns.

Bon Appétit

Thanks for reading Smart Parenting Blog. Let us know if the hamburger method works for you – @SmartParentBlog


If you’re curious, I learned about the hamburger method while taking a course on Emotional Intelligence as a Product Manager at Google, and have been using it for years. Some people online also call it the “sandwich method.” You can learn a lot more by reading the Search Inside Yourself book that roughly matches the course.

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