Introduction to Feedback:
Imagine sitting in a lively discussion with the great philosopher Socrates in ancient Greece. He’s known for his unique way of teaching, not by telling you the answers but by asking thought-provoking questions. His questions make you think, reflect, and, ultimately, guide you to discover the answers yourself. This is the Socratic method, similar to what we call ‘feedback’ today.
Just as Socrates didn’t tell his students they were wrong; feedback isn’t about pointing out mistakes. It’s about helping someone see how they can do better. It’s a two-way conversation where we share ideas, thoughts, and suggestions. It’s about learning and growing together.
So, let’s embark on this journey of discovery, just like a student in Socrates’ time. Let’s explore the feedback world, understand its value, and learn how to use it effectively. Because feedback, just like Socrates’ questions, is a powerful tool for growth and improvement.
The Value of Feedback at Work:
Now, let’s imagine Socrates is your colleague at work. He only has some of the answers but asks the right questions. These questions challenge you, push you to think differently, and help you grow. This is the power of feedback. It’s like a compass guiding us toward improvement and success.
But why is feedback so valuable at work? To understand this, let’s look at a psychological concept called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who believed that we all have certain needs that we strive to meet. These needs are often represented as a pyramid, with basic needs like food and safety at the bottom and higher needs like esteem and self-actualization at the top.
Esteem needs are about feeling respected and valued. When we receive positive feedback at work, it boosts our self-esteem. It makes us feel good about ourselves and our work. But feedback isn’t just about making us feel good. It also helps us meet our self-actualization needs, which are about becoming the best we can be.
Constructive feedback, like Socrates’ probing questions, helps us see where to improve. It challenges us to step out of our comfort zone and strive for excellence. It’s a call to adventure, pushing us to continuously learn and grow.
So, feedback at work isn’t just about correcting mistakes. It’s about meeting our deeper psychological needs, boosting our self-esteem, and helping us reach our full potential. It’s about turning the ordinary into the extraordinary, just like Socrates turned a simple conversation into a profound learning experience.
Types of Feedback:
As we continue our journey, let’s reflect on our conversation with Socrates. His questions could be challenging, even uncomfortable, at times. But they are meant to help us learn and grow. Similarly, feedback comes in different forms, and while some types might be harder to accept than others, they all serve a purpose.
First, there’s positive feedback. This is like when Socrates would affirm a student’s correct reasoning. It’s a pat on the back, acknowledging a job well done. Positive feedback boosts our confidence and motivates us to keep going. This is an example of valuable feedback, which builds us up. It’s clear, practical, and kind, and it’s often given immediately after we do something well, making it fresh and relevant.
Then, there’s negative feedback. This is like when Socrates points out a flaw in a student’s argument. It can be hard to hear, but it’s not meant to bring us down. Instead, it’s meant to show us where we’ve gone off track and how to get back on the right path. However, it’s important to remember that negative feedback can be either valuable or hurtful. Valuable negative feedback, like Socrates’ questions, is meant to help us improve. It’s precise, helpful, and delivered with kindness. Hurtful feedback, on the other hand, is derogatory and mean. It puts us down instead of helping us grow.
Finally, there’s constructive feedback. This is the most Socratic form of feedback. It’s about pointing out what’s wrong and suggesting how to improve. It’s a guiding hand, helping us find our way toward better performance. Constructive feedback can be given immediately or after some time. Immediate constructive feedback helps us correct our course right away, while delayed feedback gives us a broader view, helping us see the bigger picture.
But like Socrates’ students, we might only sometimes be ready to hear these questions. We might resist or even refuse feedback. It’s natural to feel defensive or uncomfortable when faced with our shortcomings. But remember, feedback, like Socrates’ questions, is meant to help us grow. It’s a call to adventure that we shouldn’t refuse but embrace. Because it’s only by facing the challenges that we can truly learn and improve.
Feedback and Neurodiversity:
As we journey further, let’s consider a new perspective. Imagine if Socrates had a student who thought differently, who had a unique way of processing information. This student is neurodiverse, meaning their brain works slightly differently from most people’s. Socrates, being his wise mentor, would adapt his questions to suit this student’s unique way of thinking.
Like Socrates would adapt his teaching style, we need to adjust our feedback style when dealing with neurodiversity. Neurodiversity includes autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and others. These individuals may process information and communicate differently. They might need feedback to be delivered in a specific manner in order to understand and benefit from it.
For example, some people might need feedback to be obvious and direct. In contrast, others might need it delivered gently and with plenty of positive reinforcement. Some prefer written feedback, while others prefer a face-to-face conversation.
Understanding and respecting these differences is crucial for effective feedback. It’s about meeting people where they are, just like Socrates would meet his students where they were. It’s about recognizing that everyone’s journey is unique and has their own way of navigating it.
So, as we continue our journey, let’s remember to be like Socrates. Let’s be adaptable, understanding, and respectful. Let’s recognize and celebrate neurodiversity and use feedback to help everyone, no matter how their brain works, learn, and grow.
The Power of Feedback in Steady Progress:
Let’s imagine we’ve been learning from Socrates for a while. We’ve listened to his questions, pondered his words, and started to see things in a new light. We’ve crossed the threshold and embarked on a journey of growth and improvement. This is the power of feedback in action.
Like Socrates’ questions guided his students toward wisdom, feedback guides us toward better performance. It shows us where we’re doing well and where we can improve. It helps us identify our strengths and work on our weaknesses. It’s a constant companion on our journey, helping us make steady progress toward our goals.
Think about a time when you received feedback that helped you improve. It could be a suggestion from a colleague that helped you solve a problem. Or it was a comment from a teacher that helped you understand a concept better. This feedback, like Socrates’ questions, catalyzed your growth.
But feedback isn’t just about individual growth. It’s also about collective growth. When we give and receive feedback effectively, we create a culture of learning and improvement. We help each other grow, and we grow together.
So, as we continue our journey, let’s embrace the power of feedback. Let’s see it not as a challenge but as an opportunity. An opportunity to learn, grow, and progress toward our goals. Because feedback, like Socrates’ questions, is a powerful tool for growth and improvement.
As our journey ends, we return home, not as the same people who started the journey but as individuals transformed by the power of feedback. Just like the students of Socrates, who emerged from their discussions with newfound wisdom, we, too, have gained valuable insights into the world of feedback.
We’ve learned that feedback, like the questions Socrates asked his students, is a tool for growth and improvement. It’s not about criticism or judgment but about learning and development. It’s a compass that guides us toward becoming the best we can be.
We’ve also discovered the importance of understanding and respecting neurodiversity in feedback. As Socrates would have adapted his questions for each student, we must adjust our feedback to suit each individual’s unique way of thinking and processing information.
Finally, we’ve seen how feedback can lead to steady progress for individuals and teams. It’s a constant companion on our journey, helping us identify our strengths, work on our weaknesses, and continuously improve our goals.
So, as we return to our everyday lives, let’s take these lessons. Let’s embrace feedback, not as something to fear but as a guide, a mentor, and a tool for growth. Let’s be like Socrates, using feedback to turn ordinary conversations into extraordinary learning experiences. And let’s continue our journey, always learning, improving, and growing.
Author: Jason Bean
As an autistic individual with a successful career in advanced manufacturing for over 20 years, my goal is to help organizations understand the value of neurodivergent employees and create an opportunity for employment success.