The Complaint Sandwich

March 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Communication, Self Esteem

self esteem anxiety assertiveness guilt resentmentsRather than feeling resentments about someone, rather than nagging or yelling, learn to deliver bad news in a complaint sandwich. If you have a parent, a child, a friend, or co-worker, you have probably run into situations where you’ve had a complaint or criticism about them. This is where a lot of people feel anxiety. You need to deliver some bad news, negative feedback, or *helpful* advice. This is a part of assertiveness training–expressing a complaint. If you really want the other person to listen to what you have to say, you ought to package it in a complaint sandwich. You’ll want to eliminate the possibility of feeling guilt about the conversation later, so practice what you have to say before you say it. Here’s how it works.


The bottom piece of bread is what you like or admire. Examples:

To your son: “I liked the way that you picked up all your toys and put them in the toy chest. Thanks for doing that.”

To your spouse: “Thanks for picking me up from work. I appreciate the fact that you had to go out of your way to do that for me.”

To your co-worker: “You did a nice job on that project. It looks terrific!”

The Complaint

Ready? We’re now at the difficult part, the meat in the middle–the negative feedback or complaint.

To your son: “I noticed that all your dirty clothes are under your bed. Would you please put those in the hamper?”

To your spouse: “I’ve been waiting for forty-five minutes and wondering if I told you the wrong time.” (You didn’t.)

To your co-worker: “I wish you had included me in the process since we were asked to do it together.”


You always put the praise on the end, too. This is the top piece of bread in the sandwich. Without doing this, you run the risk of offending the person or having them not hear you at all.

To your son: “I’m so proud of you. You’ve come a long way.”

To your spouse: “However, I really appreciate the fact that you came to get me. Thanks so much for doing that.”

To your co-worker: “But you did a really nice job on it and deserve all the recognition for doing this.”

Get the idea? Find a way to put this little complaint sandwich in use today. You’ll feel better about yourself when you do this. Also, you’ll bolster the self esteem of your listeners. Give it a try!

Asking for Change

March 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Communication

asking for change

This “asking for change” script can be helpful for couples, families, and employers. It’s a standard technique that is used in assertiveness training, anger management, and family counseling. What changes do you want the other person to make? Be very specific. Tell the other person how you feel about the behavior in question. Name the specific changes that you would like to see. Also, think about what you might need to change in your own behavior to help the other person. Claim your power and reduce the stress in your life by practicing this script often.


When you__________________________________________

I feel ______________________________________________(mad, sad, bad, glad, scared, disappointed, hurt, frustrated, embarrassed, etc.)

I wish (or I want)________________________________________

If you can do that, I will____________________________________.


  1. While Person A talks, Person B listens.
  2. Person B can ask for clarification, take notes, or ask Person A to repeat the request. But Person B cannot interrupt Person A.
  3. When Person A finishes, Person B should summarize the message (leaving nothing out) and then say, “Did I get it right?”
  4. Person A says yes or no. If person A says no, then clarification is in order.


“When you yell at me, I feel hurt and angry. I wish you would speak quietly to me. If you can do that, I will listen and respond to you.”

“When you leave the house without telling me where you are going, I feel disappointed and scared. I want you to tell me where you are going. If you can do that,  I will not insist that you come back in an hour.”

“When you don’t go to school, I feel irritated. I wish you would take school seriously and go every day. If you can do that, I will allow you more freedom on the weekends.”

See how easy it is? Give it a try!

Happy Relationships in 22 Words

March 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Relationship Advice

How to define healthy relationships in twenty-two words:


1. I can be me.
2. You can be you.
3. We can be us.
4. I can grow.
5. You can grow.
6. We can grow together.

This marvelous summary is  from The Struggle For Intimacy by Janet Woititz. If you value yourself, you allow yourself to be yourself. You allow your partner to be him/herself. Assertiveness helps you to speak your truth, set limits, appreciate differences while respecting your partner.

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You Teach People How to Treat You

March 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Relationship Advice

If you feel people use you, take advantage of you, or break their promises to you, then you need to make some new choices. No one wants to be victimized, but victims often don’t know how to get out of their rut. They don’t understand that they have taught people to treat them poorly by the poor treatment that they have accepted in the past.


I used to work for an employer who often asked me to work six or seven days a week on a very meager salary. I really needed the job because I was a single parent at the time. However, as much as I did not want to lose my job, there came a time when I needed to stand up for myself. My fear-based behavior acted as a lightning rod for my corporate bully boss. I took a big risk as I firmly but politely set limits with how often I would work overtime. Fortunately for me, he backed down.

Learn to Value Yourself

  • One of the easiest ways to learn to value yourself is to learn assertiveness training. When you assert yourself, you speak your truth in a kind, calm, mature manner.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this relationship a two-way street? Am I getting as much as I’m giving?” If not, time to re-think your relationships. You deserve to be treated with as much respect as what you give to others.
  • Determine your boundaries. Where do you draw the line? Claim your power so that you don’t feel victimized. Being a doormat is a self-destructive habit that can be changed.
  • Remember that every adult relationship is voluntary. Yes, I said every relationship. You get to determine how close you want to be with your sister, parent, spouse, neighbor, or boss. To a large extent, you also determine the quality of the relationship.
  • Be good to yourself. Be as kind to you as you are to others.

Becoming Your Own Best Friend

When you start treating yourself as if you are  fabulous, terrific, and wonderful, you  don’t allow others to walk on you. When you start believing that you’re a magnificent limited edition of one–unique in every way,  you put out a different energy in relationships.

If this is something that you can’t believe right now, then becoming your own best friend is really important. Because if you feel good about yourself  then other people will treat you with respect.  Remember: we teach people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves.

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Whose Hands are on Your Steering Wheel?

January 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Relationship Advice

Imagine yourself in the driver’s seat of your car. You’re all ready to go. Whose hands are on your steering wheel? Who is driving your life? So many people that I see say that everyone else’s hands are all over the steering wheel–parents, spouse, boss, children, and so on. In fact, quite a few clients don’t even see their own hands on their steering wheel!

steering-wheelIf you would like to feel less victimized, you’ll need to firmly and politely remove everyone else’s hands from your steering wheel. Claim your power! Whose life is it anyway? They’ve got their own steering wheels! Can you imagine what it would be like to drive a car with four hands on your steering wheel? As you come to value yourself more and more, you’ll find yourself politely by firmly removing other people’s hands from the steering wheel of your life.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that you should be rude, aggressive, or selfish. And in a marriage, you learn to work cooperatively with each other in a balanced interdependence.  Just be aware of your rights and your boundaries.

“Value yourself. The only people who appreciate a doormat are those with dirty shoes.”  –Leo Buscaglia

Copyright © 2009 Kathie Keeler, All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, stored, or transferred by any print or electronic means without the express written consent of the copyright owner.

Assert Yourself

January 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Relationship Advice

Assertiveness is the practice of openly and honestly expressing your feelings, learning about your rights as a human being, firmly and kindly protecting those rights (without feeling guilty) and becoming more aware of who you are. Assertiveness is NOT aggressiveness. Nor is it bluntness. Assertiveness training can help the angry, aggressive person just as much as it can help the meek, passive person.Senior couple meeting with agent

Almost any therapist can help you to become more assertive. Although you can read a book about it or read about it on the internet, it’s very difficult to apply unless you have a “mirror”–another caring and emotionally healthy human being who can accurately communicate to you how they see you. If you choose to use a friend or family member, be aware that the person you have chosen may have a hidden agenda–it may serve them to have you behave in certain ways that benefit their lives.

Assertiveness is for everyone. But, it’s particularly powerful for those people who suffer from “learned helplessness.” For example, many people have adopted the “victim stance” their parent(s) modeled for them when they were kids. Learned helplessness is characterized by passivity, powerlessness, and strong dependency needs. Some people call this the “doormat syndrome.”

The benefits of becoming more assertive tremendous:

  • less stress
  • improved communication
  • better relationships
  • more self confidence
  • greater self-awareness
  • better decision-making skills

Using these assertiveness tips is a terrific way to take good care of yourself while respecting the rights of others as well.