Stop Ignoring Positive Feedback

I’m into evaluation. At the end of my Confirmation talks and the related discussion guides I’m designing, I make sure to leave time for two questions:

  1. What about this was helpful for you?
  2. What about this could have been more helpful?

It helps to hear affirmation, not only for the dopamine boost but also to know that, yes, we can do that again next time. It works.

Of course, it also helps to hear critique. “Don’t leave us in the large group the whole time. It’s easier for us to interact when we’re in smaller groups.” Got it. Next time I’ll design that part differently.

The thing is, I’m a junkie for negative feedback. I want to tinker and fix, and I begin, proceed, and end with the presumption that my work is flawed and needs revision. I will dedicate hours to addressing one piece of critical feedback while ignoring two or three positive assessments. You do this too. We’re afraid that accepting the “good job” without some qualification will make us complacent, or, worse, arrogant.

That’s probably not a good long term learning strategy, because the positive feedback teaches us just as much as the negative. If persisting in error is stupid, so is altering success.

Ask if it works. If “yes,” trust the user, the student, the reader. She’s not lying. He’s not being “nice.” Accept that you did something well and do it again.

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