The Lens for Taking Feedback

The Lens for Taking Feedback
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash

I have been interested in how we take negative feedback and positive compliments. What I have learned so far has been insightful. Start with negative feedback. You take feedback with one of two lenses: a lens of validation or a lens of improvement.

Intuitively, we don't want negative feedback because it does not validate us. And whatever does not validate us, threatens us. On the savannah, if you were to get negative feedback, you risked being socially ostracized; and being alone meant that you would die soon. Evolutionarily, we are coded to treat negative feedback as a threat – thanks to the amygdala – so we tend to justify to ourselves why we acted the way we did. This self-justification is an outcome of our lens of validation.

In contrast, consider the lens of improvement. The insight I got was simple and profound: The next time you get negative feedback, view it with a lens of improvement. Ask yourself: What can I glean from this feedback that makes sense? How can I do better the next time? Why did I make that error? Simply by asking such questions, we get curious about the feedback we get. Curiosity helps us get past our threat-perception. We begin viewing feedback with a lens of improvement, becoming truly curious about how we can leverage a novel insight from somebody else to do better in our own lives.

To me, this learning was invaluable because I would've been bound to miss honing in on such a simple yet profound insight, had it not been for my mentor. There is indeed a subtle distinction between the lens of validation and that of improvement.

Let's get to positive compliments now. A compliment is, quite literally, a mini-orgasm for the brain. The ventral striatum lights up and dopamine is released, which makes us want more compliments. Soon enough, we're a different species: we're not humans anymore, but compliment-seeking-humans. The funny part is that this happens subtly, over time, without us noticing. We involuntarily prime ourselves to feel better, for which, we hunt for compliments.

Here, the insight I got was, again, simple: Try to practice the 'yes, and' philosophy here. Instead of viewing compliments with a lens of validation, view them with a lens of improvement. Say, "Yes, I did perform that well, and I could have done X, Y, or Z to make it even better." Simply by doing this, we program ourselves to not just get compliments and settle down, but rather to receive compliments and improve. Again, we activate the lens of improvement here.

Insights like these are useful to me, and I hope they are to you too.

Until next time,


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