This Sandwich Theorem of Criticism Changed My Life. It Can Change Yours.

One day my friend quoted Prophet Muhammad’s saying:

There is a part of your body. If it is in your control, whole body behaves well. If it is faulty, whole body is disturbed.

Muslim scholars are agreed that this part is the tongue. So, I was curious. I asked questions to myself. Why is it said so? What are the most detrimental effects tongue causes? I found that criticism, backbiting, abusing, and flattering, are the outcome of the worst tongue. I ranked them all. I found that criticism is the most dangerous venom among all. My thought process revealed that it is because of its duality: Positive and negative criticism.

Criticism can be manipulated. It provides critics with ease of using it, per listener mode. Sensing the listener’s disturbance by my criticism, I can claim it to be positive criticism. I can imply that it was for your good. I didn’t mean that. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. I am sorry if I am perceived wrong. All these justifications aren’t possible with other things.

Abusing can’t be justified this way. Calling someone motherf*cker is meant as a motherf*cker. Who can manipulate it? It is crystal clear. There’s no positivity in saying someone’s motherf*cker. We can’t claim to abuse for right. There’s no term as decent abusing. So unlike criticism, I can’t say I did positive abusing. I can’t justify backbiting for good. No one will like to be discussed in a boorish and disrespectful way. It is obvious that backbiting is most disliked action one would have.

That’s why all tongue sicknesses except criticism are considered bad and ill-mannered in every society. But criticism is often taken as positive or negative and it can still kill like a poison and remain imperceptible.

Another question: how can I avoid criticism?

I found that it’s not a good strategy to learn criticism avoiding tactics. We have a huge audience in our circle. They often criticize. It’s hard to understand every person and deal accordingly. So it’s wise to learn How To Criticize. It will look strange but it’s the best technique I found ever. It’s called the sandwich theorem of criticism. We should learn it instead of avoiding criticism.

I learnt it from a friend. He asked me to review his research paper. He wanted to publish it in a solar energy conference. I reviewed it with the best of my skills. It wasn’t fitting to my definition of writing. Very next day I emailed him and typed all flaws I could have found. Those were scientific errors and paper wasn’t inflow. I didn’t realize it could have hurt him. I was right on my side. To me, review meant to be highlighting the mistakes only. He replied me back with a life-changing message.

He taught me the Sandwich Theorem of Criticism. He said:

You mentioned my mistakes only. Instead, you could have appreciated me for my work first then talked about errors. In last, you should have given me solution and hope for my efforts.

I was shocked. I didn’t mean to feel him bad but unknowingly I did it. This was his sandwich theorem. I am copying it as I was told.

The Sandwich Theorem

It consists of three layers.

1-Appreciation layer

Don’t push hard early in your opinion about someone. During discussions, after listening to other’s point of view, appreciate their talk first. Give them positive vibes. Say it like this

Based on your experience you are saying right. You presented your thoughts in an easy and understandable way. I got your point

2-Comments layer

It is time to put your views. It is time to tell what you think about other’s opinion or work. You can say like this

I have found some errors and mistakes. Maybe you didn’t consider them, but I have different views about it. I think that this….. this….. and this…. point isn’t suitable to make here.

3- Feedback layer

After appreciation of what others said and given your opinion then comes the feedback layer. It will bring harmony. It will keep everyone on the same ground. This is important. Now you will present a solution. Remember that without it your top two layers are meaningless. If you are using this theorem in the debate, present your point of view. If you are reviewing someone work, present a solution of objections you highlighted.

The Lesson

I concluded that In reviewing my friend’s paper I should have appreciated his efforts first. I should have said that his effort to contribute to science is great. It’s great to see him writing a research paper. Then I had to push hard by comments. Mentioning his mistakes. Pointing out errors. In the end, I should have given him best regards to the acceptance of his paper.

This theorem really helped me since that time. I hope, as a reader you will get the same result.

Previously published on ‘Change Becomes You”, a Medium publication.

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