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  • Writer's pictureYoram Solomon, PhD

What's more important, positive or negative feedback?

Somewhere along the way it feels like, as a culture, we started focusing more on what people feel about themselves, than on how successful they are. A study published in 2017, gathering data from the World Values Survey, suggested that in the 51 years from 1960 to 2011, individualism increased 12% in the 78 countries surveyed. In English-speaking countries, it increased between 60 to 69%. But, does that mean that we are more individualistic, or really that we are more self-centered? This manifests itself in how we give feedback. Our focus shifted to provide positive feedback that allows the recipient to feel good about themselves, because when they feel good about themselves, they can't be feeling bad about the person giving them feedback.  But are we doing them any favor?  You see, positive feedback makes the other person feel better about themselves, but it also reinforces the things they already do well, without addressing what they don't do very well. And for a good reason: negative feedback is hard to hear, and we're afraid that if we give it, the recipient would hate us. With this trend of increasing self-centrism, we are probably right.  Giving negative feedback is much harder than giving positive feedback. While giving positive feedback is something you can do anytime, anywhere, in front of other people, and behind people's back (after all, you are only saying good things about them), negative feedback must be delivered much more carefully and delicately. You have to deliver it only when the other person is ready to receive, and in a place where they can receive it, or they will take it as a personal attack, become emotional, irrational, and attack us back. You should never do it in front of other people (or you would shame the person you are giving feedback to), and never behind their back (it will come back to them, trust me). On top of that, they will resent you. I can almost guarantee it! So, why bother?  For a simple reason. Because you really do care about them. Giving positive feedback makes the recipient feel good about themselves. Giving them negative feedback helps them see what they can improve. The impact of their ability to improve something bad they are doing is much bigger on their prospects of success than the impact of them continuing to do the positive things they are already doing.  I'm not suggesting that you don't give positive feedback. Positive feedback makes you feel good about yourself. Negative feedback makes you better. You need both

Trust me,

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