Now, answer this one…
Can you remember what was written on your school reports?
Whenever I pose this question, it seems to summon up negative memories for most people. Hardly anyone remembers being praised or told they were doing really well.
Quite the contrary. Often people remember comments like “Anne is a quiet child” without thinking too hard and almost everyone remembers “could do better“!
It is fascinating to observe people when I ask this question, as they scratch their head, squirm a bit and generally fail to come up with anything positive that someone else has said about them.
But why is this? I fail to believe that nothing positive has been said, so are they simply trying to avoid coming up with anything through some misguided sense of modesty?
Somewhere in our past, people seem to have learned to hide away their talents, in case others view them as big-headed. After all, if you chat to a bunch of five year olds, you won’t have any difficulty in finding out what they’re good at!
But when we grow up, the belief that we shouldn’t declare our talents for fear of being seen as boastful can lead us to deflect the praise we are given each and every day.
Stop to notice how this plays out with members of your own team when you offer them praise for a job well done. You will hear a response like “oh, it’s just my job” or “yes but, everyone does it that well“.
When this happens, do them a favour and make sure the praise really lands. Repeat the feedback, and ask them to say nothing, except a simple thank you.
The meaning and impact of feedback cannot be underestimated. How we give and how we receive it are both equally important in determining what we perceive as helpful or unhelpful.