Why Positive Feedback is Better Suman March 3, 2016

Why Positive Feedback is Better

During a recent visit to our favourite cheese cake joint, a friend and I ran into the owner of the place. He came in, had a conversation with the man at the counter about the day’s stock and stepped outside where his little daughter was enjoying a little treat of her own. After we were done eating, we decided to walk up to him and compliment him for the consistent quality of his products. He seemed to be pleasantly surprised at the compliment since not many people seem to do it. Or not often enough. This set me thinking. If we had had a bad experience, like getting stale cakes, we’d be vociferous in our complaints. In hindsight, I realised that when I travel, I notice the good and bad points in a hotel to write a review later. And it’s usually a shortcoming that has me reach for a pen and paper to jot it down.

I think it’s human tendency to notice things that aren’t going well. Brands are on an overdrive on social media handling complaints – since we reach out mostly when we face service issues and not much when all is well. When all goes well, we seldom tend to take time to appreciate it. We smoothly glide through the experience.

Feedback can be constructive even when it is positive. In fact, it is a better motivator to perform than criticism. A tiny volume called The One Minute Manager talks about this concept in the corporate context and sold 13 million copies!! (Read more here) It is about noticing people when they do something right or good and appreciating the same rather than wait for them to do something wrong and attribute timely blame. And it works in most contexts. Your generally sloppy child might have neatly stacked his books for a change. Or your spouse (I mean, the husband) helped you with the chores for a change. A word of appreciation can go a long way in getting that behaviour repeated.

Here are a few quick tips to make your feedback positive in any context:

1. Be Positive: Prime your mind to look for and register the good deeds around. We are so attuned to the dissonance around us that what works well seems to go unnoticed. And when you find something good, appreciate genuinely and positively.

2. Be specific: Just like general negative feedback – you are ‘always’ late doesn’t work, positive feedback should be specific too. Saying – I love it when you help me with the chores around the house, which you seldom do – isn’t exactly positive or specific. Pick out a specific action or behaviour and say what you liked about it.

3. Be immediate: Try and appreciate as soon as you spot the good thing. It may lose relevance and effect if the moment’s gone. The reinforcement will be much better when you can immediately tell your child, pointing at the neatly stacked books, how happy you are too see his job well done.

4. Be public: This doesn’t mean you need to announce it over a PA system. It just means that praise, in particular, should be shared with everyone, in front of everyone. It not just makes the receiver feel good but also can motivate others to emulate the good behaviour.

5. Be regular: This is related to the first point I mentioned. Let’s make it a part of our lives – to look for good and appreciate it. Everyone wants to hear nice things about themselves. And genuinely saying good things is the best gift we can give others.

Can you think of a time when someone complemented/appreciated you when did not expect it? Did it not feel great to know that someone noticed something you were good at? Share it in your comments and let’s start the positive conversation.