I promised you to say something about how come we are sometimes better “trained” to respond to negative than to positive feedback. Also, I promised you to introduce a possible way to unlearn old patterns and invite new ones come in.
Back in 2000, my ballet teacher told the class at the beginning of our ballet course that he follows two rules in providing feedback about our performance:
1. what we do right and well, is normal and how it should be done. Therefore he will not say it.
2. what we don’t do right, he’ll emphasize and correct so that we could improve.
After four years of training we felt like we couldn’t do anything right. Out of 18 students in the first year, only myself and another girl have completed the studies in due time. We didn’t celebrate it.
If you do receive a lot of criticism and negative feedback, you are very likely to be doing something really important and perhaps something meaningful, that only a few are willing to try. If you are coping with criticism and can handle it more or less one way or another, you have probably developed a very precious skill: resilience. Further, you might be expressing great courage if you keep going inspite of the criticism. I think this deserves a deep bow. It also demonstrates you are a fighter and survivor.
However, life is much more than that. I bet sometimes you get positive feedback as well. What do you do with it? Do you even notice it? Do you celebrate it or do you accredit less importance to it than to the negative feedback? Maybe because positive feedback is ok, but negative should be considered more seriously, so that you can improve? Close resemblance to my teacher?
Here’s an exercise: try to remember the last compliment, a positive feedback or comment you’ve received about your work. What abilities and skills did you have to demonstrate in order to receive this compliment? What did the compliment giver see in you that she/he decided to delivier it to you the way they did? Why do you think they considered bothering making a compliment or a positive feedback to you? They could do otherwise, but they didn’t. And I guess they were not forced into making this compliment, so they probably gave it freely and out of their own intention.
Going one step further: how did you respond to the feedback? Were you able to take it seriously and accept it? How did you express that? How did receiving the compliment feel inside? What might the other person who gave you the feedback notice about you as you responded? And how did they respond back?
Sometimes we might think that it is good enough not to receive negative feedback and criticism. However life is much more than just the absence of negative. Good feedback is not just the absence of negative feedback. Good feedback is about appreciation, respect, gratitude, kindness, good handshake, a shoulder to lean on, a supportive company, good health, smiling, to be loved and to be able to love. It may feel like a lot. But you deserve this. All of this. And not just sometimes. You deserve it regularly, just as much as you deserve to breathe clean air.
To conclude, here is some experiment you might want to try: you might be waiting for your next compliment and embrace it fully. And how about while waiting, you make a genuine compliment to someone? How about you use the next opportunity you meet someone that is important to you and tell them something about them that you appreciate? Try and observe the difference you will make.
As William Makepeace Thackeray said:
Never loose a chance to say a kind word.