Introduction: Solution Sandwich: How to Have Difficult Conversations
A basic life skill is being able to have difficult conversations with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and even perfect strangers ;-)
I want to share a technique for having difficult conversations, which for some people, even talking to anyone is challenging. The "Solution Sandwich" which oddly enough, I learned while in a recovery program for eating disorders. If you or a friend struggles with an eating disorder, please don't wait 20 years like I did to ask for help.
The technique described here has been used by many therapists, professionals, businesses and anyone else who wants to learn how to better communicate with their fellow human beings.
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Step 1: White Bread
Rather than empty and low in nutrients, think of a hearty bread and start with...
a genuine statement of empathy or appreciation for the person you are talking to
e.g. I understand how hard it must be to deal with this situation,
or: I appreciate your role in my life so much
Step 2: Meat
I feel (honest feelings, like sad, angry, afraid, guilty) – this builds intimacy and explains reason for request
I need – state what it is you need
Would you please – ask them as specifically as you are able to for the part they might do in meeting your need.
e.g. I feelafraid that I am going to hurt your feelings by telling you this but I feelsad right now and I need some time to myself. Would you please forgive me if I cancel our plans for this weekend?
Or: I feelangry that the kitchen is a mess. I need help in keeping our home neat. Would you please pick 2 nights a week that you can clean up after dinner?
Or: I feelguilty that I have not been able to help as much around here as I used to. I needto apologize for so much falling on you. Would you please help me brainstorm about what I am able to do that would help even out the load?
Step 3: White Bread
– more honest empathy, perhaps an honest statement of appreciation for hearing your request.
e.g. Thank you for listening to me through this; it is so important to me that we understand each other and each other’s needs.
Step 4: Muscle
There are three levels of "muscle" you can use with a Solution Sandwich: 1, 2 and 3. One involves saying, I need. Two involves saying, I really need, and Three involves saying, I really need and if you do not, I will...then stating a consequence. Try not to let it get to level 3 by using the Solution Sandwich as soon as you've identified there is a problem.
Step 5: Practice Makes Permanent
If you practice enough, it is rumored, that you will automatically apply the solution sandwich when needed.
Now, I'm going back to practicing. So, go forth and be excellent to each other! :-)
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.