Does Feedback Make You Cringe?

March 4, 2023

Sociologist Benjamin Barber once said "I don't divide the world into the weak and the strong or the successes and failures, I divide the world into the learners and non- learners. From elementary school to your career track we are constantly receiving feedback. It might be a mark on an exam or your annual employee review but if you notice that you clench up or get stressed out and shut down when somebody gives you feedback that might appear to be negative, perhaps you need to get more of a growth mindset.Carol Dweck, author of Mindset has pointed out that there are fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. A fixed mindset says it's not enough to succeed it's not enough to be smart or talented- you have to please everybody and everybody has to say nice things all the time about you. Growth mindset takes criticism as an opportunity to learn and looks for ways they can grow. People with a growth mindset recognize that what others think about them says more about the thinker than it says about them.Is this type of more positive mindset nature or nurture? We have a system in our body whose purpose is to tell us when something goes wrong; the fight or flight system. Historically, when we are in physical danger this system was designed to kick in and changes our basic physiology by:

  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Releases stress hormones
  • Increase in insulin
  • Decreased growth, sex hormones
  • Weakened immunity
  • Clotting of blood platelets
  • Decrease circulation to the digestive tract

These were all useful in getting us ready to run from an adversary or predator, but the fact that our supervisor saying "Can I give you some feedback" sets off this response isn't very useful for us.How do we reframe our beliefs and adopt a growth mindset?​

You recognize that, right now, feedback isn't helping you; in fact, it's setting you up for a fight or flight reaction, but how do you change this? Carol Dweck offers four simple steps to develop a growth mindset.1)  Learn to hear the fixed mindset voice.  Step back and observe when you feel yourself shutting down, your heart racing or your ears listening without hearing. Notice if you are making excuses or getting angry.2) Recognize that you have a choice.  The way you interpret challenge and criticism is entirely up to you.  It's up to you whether you see it as an opportunity to change. It up to you if it feels like a punch in the gut. (Examine your belief about feedback)3) Use your growth mindset voice. When the fixed mindset says "I'm not naturally skilled" the growth mindset says "I can learn". When the fixed mindset says "I can't swim" the growth mindset says " I haven't learned to swim yet."4) Take the growth mindset action. Over time, your inner dialogue becomes part of who you are. Shush your inner critic and listen to the cheering section. When you take on challenges, when you learn from your mistakes and setbacks, and when you hear criticism as helpful you will know that you started to activate your growth mindset.

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