Published: 14th November 2020
E-canteen Fundas: Hold on. What exactly did you just say to me?
Here's why feedback is important. This week, the column dissects the difference between criticism that kills the spirit of a person and how constructive criticism can help
said Rinku on their Zoom call, ‘My athletics coach said I’m too slow and I don’t know how to react.’
‘Yes, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘We know feedback’s important for growth, but how do we differentiate between destructive criticism and constructive feedback?’
‘Good question,’ said Rakesh. ‘Criticism kills the spirit, while constructive feedback transforms a person. There is a thin line in-between.’
‘What’s the difference, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.
‘The difference simply lies in how you give and receive feedback,’ said Rakesh. ‘If you’re growth-oriented and are committed to excel, even the harshest criticism can be taken as feedback. If you’re insecure, even a compliment sounds like criticism. You stay stuck.’
‘How do we give feedback effectively, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.
‘If your feedback has more damaging consequences than improvements, you’re not giving your critique well,’ said Rakesh. ‘A typical error people make when they give feedback is to focus exclusively on what’s wrong which makes the other person feel like you’re tearing their entire effort down. One way to give negative feedback is to first focus on the parts that are good, and then point out areas to improve with specific examples and perhaps, a solution. The idea is to help them improve, not bring them down. If the other person is receiving your feedback instead of resisting it, then you’re on track.’
‘Makes sense,’ said Rinku. ‘And how should we receive negative feedback and criticism, bhaiyya?’
‘By not taking things personally,’ said Rakesh. ‘Then we can receive criticism objectively. Criticism seems like a personal attack when we’re insecure about ourselves. But if we understand that it is not about us but another individual’s opinion about an act of ours, we can deal objectively with it, analyse the truth in it and make necessary changes for improvement. When we take it personally, we throw the entire message out. The measure of how well you’re receiving feedback is in how objectively you’re able to sift through painful feedback to rectify instead of justifying yourself.’
‘So it’s about how we take it, right bhaiyya?’ said Rahul.
‘Yes,’ said Rakesh. ‘Take the most devastating criticism in the right spirit and use it for your growth, or take the gentlest, well-intentioned suggestion as a major criticism and stay stuck. By being aware and using criticism and feedback to grow, we can grow faster on the path of excellence. The choice is ours.’
Pro Tip: The difference between criticism and feedback is how we take it. If we do not take it personally, the worst criticism can be used as growth-oriented feedback to progress rapidly. We can learn from everyone.