Still Life

A Series of Mental Snapshots

Positive Feedback – Thoughts

Posted by Steve on December 11, 2007

Assessing the Validity of and being able to accept Positive Feedback
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Maybe I am alone in this, but based on my observations of others I am guessing no, but I feel that it is difficult to accept positive feedback. Personally I find it pretty easy to accept negative feedback (if I ask for it). I analyze the feedback to see if I think the comment is valid, if I deem it valid then I go about doing my best to incorporate it into whatever activities it applies to. Accepting positive feedback is another matter; what do you say when someone praises you. On one hand it appears obvious; accept the feedback and thank them for it. But for some reason I have this gut instinct not to do that, as if if I do accept and acknowledge the feedback I am boasting, or something along those lines. When I do accept/acknowledge positive feedback I feel like I am saying ‘Ya I know, I AM that good’ or ‘I know I did an amazing job, so what?’, for some reason I feel as though accepting the feedback invalidates it. Again I feel as though this is a very incorrect feeling, but from what I have observed of people, how they get very awkward when someone compliments their work, I feel I am not alone in this. Therefore I feel like its worth delving into feedback and see what makes it so difficult to receive.

So continuing on to the accepting of positive feedback. I find that there is a huge difference between accepting feedback in a one on one situation then there is when in a group of people; I find the latter to be much more difficult. I feel that this goes back to my feeling of boastfulness when accepting the positive feedback. I cannot put my finger on why, but I feel that being a showoff or boastful in group settings give off a negative impression to your coworkers (or those around you). It may stem from my observations that people do not seem to like people who are conceited and always telling everyone how great they are. But from the other side, in life you have to look out for yourself, so should you not then tell people how good you are (if its true) and they do not seem to be noticing. Being humble is supposedly a good policy, but if you are humble all the time will you not then go unnoticed?

I also want to take a quick look at what I see as the different situations in which positive feedback is given:

There is the spontaneous(or immediate feedback) that is given right after something happens ie: (and excuse the sports analogy) hitting a home run, all your team mates would give you a high five (this is pretty much instantaneous feedback). I see this to a certain degree as the most genuine kind of feedback as they have no time to really think about, they just know that you did a good job, and really want to let you know that you did.

There is prompted feedback. This is a situation where you directly ask someone to give you feedback. In this case two things go through my mind. Firstly since it is prompted, how is one to know if the feedback is truthful; this thought gets validated one way or the other based on the trust you have in the other person. Along the lines of the if the feedback is true, is whether or not the person giving feedback would have given it without you prompting. This leads into my second thought, I start to wonder if this feedback would have been given without me prompting for it. For some reason I feel that prompting someone to give you feedback invalidates some of the meaning it has; for some reason feedback that is given naturally without asking feels more genuine.

There is also scheduled feedback. Scheduled feedback manifests itself, for example, in the form of a yearly performance review; it is feedback that has to be given. I feel this as the worst feedback of all to a certain extent, since in most cases people are forced to give both positive and negative feedback no matter what. Therefore despite the fact that they may have no real opinion one way or the other on you, they are forced to come up with someone. This really brings the validity question into focus; how valid can feedback be if it has to be given? I do see some benefits for this case; it forces the giver to put some thought into the feedback they give, therefore they may be able to think about and bring up points from a few months ago that would not have come up unless they had the time to think about it. But in playing devils advocate, if they really had to think to give you feedback is that really a good thing?

Beyond the situations there is also feedback given in a group vs. one on one. Personally, receiving feedback and acknowledging it accordingly is much easier one-one. When in a group I feel like when I am given positive feedback, EVERYONE ELSE is not getting that positive pat on the back, it is almost as though I feel bad that they are not being acknowledge. I am however aware of why I feel this way when I receive the feedback, it is because when others receive positive feedback in the group setting I at times feel the ‘How come I am not being acknowledged’ feeling. That is I think one of the trickiest part of giving feedback, not pissing anyone else off. You have to give it enough so that people stay motivated, but you have to make sure its done in a manner that doesn’t piss others off, because you also want them to do work.

I think the giving feedback is a whole other topic, so I will shy away from it for now, plus I think this has gotten a tad lengthy, so I am going to cut it for now. I plan on revisiting these ideas and refining them, but for now its enough just to put them to pen (so to speak).

–Steve

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3 Responses to “Positive Feedback – Thoughts”

  1. Markus said

    Hi Steve,
    I just read through your article and found it very interesting. I think it is very common to react in a shy way to positive feedback especially in front of others. For me I’m happy to say that during the last years I was able to work away the awkward feeling most of the time (by receiving and giving feedback).

    There is also a great article on stickyminds regarding this topic.
    http://www.stickyminds.com/sitewide.asp?Function=edetail&ObjectType=ART&ObjectId=13213&tth=DYN&tt=siteemail&iDyn=2

    Cheers
    Markus

  2. Sona Deepthi said

    Interesting read. I completely identify with your thoughts.

  3. Steve said

    Hi Markus,

    Thanks for the suggested article, I will for sure give it a read. I also find it helpful to be first aware of the ‘issue’ for lack of better phrasing, then once you have awareness you can begin to change your reactions/behaviour for the better.

    –Steve

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