I’ve used the word feedback in the title but really we could talk about accepting praise and dealing with criticism. How we react to it all depends on how we see it. Our thoughts control our emotions, so if we can reframe by describing the event in a different way it can help us process it differently and have a more positive response.
I ask every person who signs up to my newsletter (psst! - if you’re not you can do so below) to tell me what difficulties they face in their lives as teachers, because although we all know ‘what it is like’, none of us can know how other people respond. So I would like to address something that was raised in a response to my question. How do we take on positive feedback and cope with negative comments?
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Although the two are complete opposites they are both about our ability to accept and act on feedback.
We could go into some deep questions about self esteem and work on building that. But one of the simplest and most powerful things to realise is that we often have these barriers to feedback because we have never really been taught how to accept it.
So put away any analysis of your self esteem for now - it might be better than you think
Instead, think of feedback, whether it is positive or negative, as a gift.
And yet a gift is still just a gift. It can be good or bad but at the end of the day it is a thing. And you can shove it in the back of a cupboard or take it to the charity shop if you don’t like it or make it pride of place in your home if you do. When a gift is physical it is easier to detach from it.
Feedback can come with the same conditions. Just because someone thought something, does not necessarily mean it’s true. It may be a thoughtless, pointless thing to say. Or it could be a kind and warm, generous thing. Either way, just like a gift, all you need to say is THANK YOU.
If feedback is negative and comes with any hidden agenda to rile you, a simple thank you is a powerful way to diffuse a situation. “Thank you, I will consider what you’ve said”
If the feedback is positive, remember this is a gift, a generous, kind gift. Do not be tempted to belittle it by putting yourself down. For example, “I really love your jumper” - “What?! This old tatty thing?” Perhaps you are familiar with these put downs in response to praise. Think of praise or positive feedback like a gift too. A precious one that you say “Thank you” for and let it be. You would never insult and put down a physical gift that someone had just given you, so don't do it with a compliment.
Learning how to accept positive feedback with a simple thank you, means you will start acknowledging the positive message more and in the long run, hearing less put downs from yourself will work wonders for self esteem.
Just say thank you - then decide whether there is any use to the gift, or whether you should just throw it away later!
Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.