Marian McEvoy's column in this month's Domino—you know, Lucky for the home?—offers some advice for giving constructive criticism to those in our lives: "Passive-aggressive behavior or defensive explosions will guarantee disaster." So true! Also she has some useful suggestions on how to deal with the household help. (Click to enlarge.)

When we hire others to keep our nests spiffy, we expect fair—and good—results in return for fair (and good) pay. If your housekeeper, babysitter, plumber, contractor or decorator isn't performing up to par, hurling insults is the worst possible behavior. Instead, consider your role: Were you clear about your needs and preferences from the start? Did you tell the housekeeper that you can't live without shiny floors? Did you mention that you don't want your lawn mowed in the morning, when you're trying to sleep? Speak up! The more direction you give, and the more regularly you give it, the better off you are. When you're pleased, say so, and if someone isn't hitting the mark, don't expect improvement if you don't complain. But finesse it a bit. Mention how sparkly the windows are looking but that you wish the towels could be fluffier. If a helper's work is unacceptable, or outrageously tardy, arrange a sit-down, describe how disappointed you are, and ask for an explanation. Then bite the bullet and say you'll pay when you get the results you want.

Her assistants probably have some great stories.—Doree

How to Give Constructive Criticism [Domino, not online]