Whether you’re at the receiving end of ‘constructive criticism’, needing to give feedback to someone who works for you, or expected to critique one of your students, there can be a certain awkwardness about it. Giving and receiving feedback is one of those things that will give sleepless nights to most of us. Perhaps you’re thinking about becoming a Beloved/Moment Design Teacher, but being able to give feedback to your students confidently and constructively is the one thing that makes you doubt your abilities, which, in turn, makes you feel worried about your yourself being critiqued during the qualification process. It’s way too easy to let that fear of critique spiral out of control.
But do we really need to make it quite that hard for ourselves?
One of the biggest problems with the process of being critiqued is something called ‘negativity bias’, which means that when we are receiving feedback our brains will hone in on the worst thing we hear. We then dwell on that for as long as we can, ignoring anything positive or constructive that might have come from the interaction. We selectively only hear something that we might feel is factually wrong, and let that poison the whole point of critique in the first place: growth.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the popular method of a certain smelly ‘sandwich’, where supposedly giving criticism wrapped in compliments makes it easier to handle (or to give). To me, it seems that keeping praise and criticism separate allows the receiver to really hear the good stuff. It also gives them a better opportunity to reframe and learn from criticism.
Here are a few tips that might help you to look at your relationship with feedback differently.
If you’re the one receiving feedback, instead of zeroing in on any factual errors, try to think in terms of why is there a difference in opinion? It could be that you have different information, come from different backgrounds, or that there’s a clash of personality that makes it hard to see things in the same way. But it could also be that you have a different style of communication, and something got lost along the way.
Or it could be that they are right, and you dropped the ball.
2 Flip it around
Imagine that you yourself discovered the error or weakness. That way, instead of feeling attacked, you can more calmly evaluate whether there is something you could have done differently.
3 Seek negative feedback.
Negative feedback is actually so much more valuable than positive feedback, it can help us grow and develop at a lot higher speed than hearing only positive things ever will. If you are the one asking for negative feedback, it’s strangely also a lot easier to take. So pre-empt any feedback situation by asking outright if there was anything you could have done better – and get ready to grow.
If you’re a teacher, it will serve you well to encourage your students to embrace a mindset where they see learning from criticism as a great strength, too.
4 It’s not personal
Whether you’re giving or receiving feedback, remember that it’s the actions that are under review, not the person themselves. Don’t take feedback as an attack against who you are, or judge anyone else’s character while giving them feedback, just their performance.
5 Don’t critique while you give praise
In order to make sure that your praise is fully heard and appreciated, don’t dilute it with critique. It’s important to hear what’s going right, but if you throw the things that are going wrong into the same mix, that’s all the person being critiqued will hear.