self criticism

Evaluating Other People

Personal note

This has been the last week leading up to my new seminar, “Expand Your Time, Tame Your Tension … and Expand Your Life!”. It has been filled with a myriad of opportunities to practice what I teach – remaining serene and focused when social hurricanes whirl around you. (Luckily, we haven’t had any of the real kind lately, just a lot of rain.)

Remember, it is possible to be overly-busy and still find time to savor your life and relationships, feel vital and optimistic, and “smell the roses,” all without giving up any of your activities – and definitely without any medication.  I can show you how.

Evaluating Other People

Build relationships and teams by giving value to your interaction

(This is the last of a series of articles on handling criticism constructively and without stress.)

Evaluating other people is something you will do all of your life, both formally, as a teacher, parent, or manager, and informally, as in personal relationships with your peers.

Giving feedback to others is a skill that is really worth learning.  It will make you more effective and powerful in all your relationships, particularly if you recognize that feedback isn’t always negative.

Commenting positively on a job well done is feedback, too. Too few people recognize this as the powerful tool it really is.

I remember years ago hearing a dance teacher say to his students, “I don’t have to tell you when you’re right.  You KNOW when you’re right.  It’s my job to tell you when you’re wrong.”He couldn’t have been more wrong.  People who are learning a new skill, whether it’s a child learning correct social behavior, or an office worker learning new technology, or an athlete trying to acquire a difficult skill, don’t know when they’re right.  They are fumbling around, trying to obey directions, while at the same time paying attention to bodily sensations, such as anxiety, and conflicting thoughts, including self criticism.

Here are some things to consider when giving feedback to someone else:
– Remember to provide information about what to do next, not judgment.
– Focus on the task, not the person.

Watch your tone of voice:  When someone is wrong, use a calm, neutral tone of voice. When the person does something right, use a strong, enthusiastic tone of voice.

(If you’ve ever seen one of those learning toys for children, where the child gets feedback for giving right or wrong answers, you will hear the difference immediately.  When the child is wrong, a neutral voice says, “That’s incorrect. Try again.”  When the child is right, the voice says, “That’s right!!!! Hooray!” Lights may flash on the toy, too.)

This is not just about being kind.  It is about taking advantage of the way the nervous system works.  When we are wrong and know it, we have emotions so powerful and distracting that it is hard to learn at the same time. It’s a little like trying to learn something in the presence of extremely loud, harsh noise.  We may feel disoriented, even a little paralyzed.  So, directions given in a calm low-key manner (even to yourself!) work best to improve performance.

On the other hand, human beings have a tendency to discount positive feedback, also known as praise.  Just think of the number of times you have heard someone, perhaps yourself, wave off a compliment, saying, “Oh, did you really think so?  I thought I was lousy.”

Positive statements, whether you call them praise, compliments, or just positive feedback, do not register as strongly in the nervous system as does criticism.

So be sure to use a strong, warm voice to tell people they’re right.

As you help others around you improve their levels of performance with your good feedback, you will find that they will trust you, come to you readily for help, and in turn give you support.

It works whether you’re a parent, manager, teacher, coach…or a lover!

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