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Dive 6: Boost Your Positivity by GIVING Positive Feedback
Hey, it’s Alvin!
I find most people are quite good at identifying flaws in whatever is being reviewed. But as a software developer and writer, I still see too many people who don’t identify any positives.
In today’s dive Below the Surface of positive feedback, we’ll look at:
What happens when people never get a single shred of positive feedback.
The not-so-obvious benefits of positive feedback for the reviewer.
Let me share with you something I’ve never shared with anyone else before.
When I started my career as a software developer, I didn’t know what I was doing. I counted on my colleagues at work to help me learn frontend technologies, backend technologies, and everything in between. This was on top of meeting crazy, tight deadlines. There were times I felt lost having made tons of mistakes.
And believe me, I made mistakes.
Do you know how I know?
Because senior developers, quality analysts, managers and others would criticize me for all my mistakes—as they should. I needed to learn.
The font face is wrong
The text should be left aligned
The colour is off
The feature does X, but it’s doing Y
Numbers aren’t rounding properly
Timestamps are in the wrong time zone
Some data didn’t update when it should have
Some data updated with the wrong values
Some data is duplicated
The process took too long
So, what did I do right?
At least, that’s how I felt, because nobody ever pointed out any positives from the work I produced. If this only happened for a month or a year, I’d suck it up and bear with it.
And that’s what I did.
But when you don’t get any positives for over three straight years, it wears you out psychologically. I didn’t only question the value of myself as an employee; I questioned my value as a person. Frustrated with myself, I wondered, “why can’t I do anything right?” Those years decimated my confidence, so it didn’t just affect my career, it affected my life. And if you’ve been there, you’d know that’s a terribly dark place to be.
Some people might wonder why I didn’t just quit and look for another job. I didn’t see value in myself, so I didn’t think I’d be valued elsewhere. And because I lacked experience, I just thought that was how all workplaces were like. I didn’t talk to anyone else about how I felt because I felt like no one else would understand me. I felt alone in a dark place. Worthless.
My life started turning around when I was paired with a mentor who understood me like no other. He was the first to point out what I was doing well in, besides everything I needed to fix. He was also the first to sit down with me to design software solutions. If my solution was lacking, he would:
Show that he understood why I did things the way I did
Suggest “maybe we could try it this other way…”, and
Offer his reasons for the alternative
In other words, he never came off as, “I’m right; you’re wrong.” He encouraged mutual understanding because he recognized there are pros and cons in each of our ideas. Together, we’d develop alternative solutions to see what worked best.
From our interactions, I realized two key benefits of positive feedback:
When you give positive feedback, the recipient feels more like the two of you are on the same side. You’re less adversarial. That makes them more receptive to ALL feedback, whether or not they realize it.
In addition to knowing what they’re doing wrong (so they can fix them), the recipient also knows what they’re doing right (so they can keep at it). The additional information rockets them to success.
Since then, I’ve been trying to do better at giving positive feedback. I must admit, I always found it much easier to find flaws in things, so it was hard to find positives at first. I felt I needed to force myself to do it, which made my positive feedback feel fake.
Luckily, I met a guy on Twitter named Louie Bacaj. He has his own newsletter called The M&Ms Newsletter. Louie is fantastic at giving positive feedback, besides pointing out things to work on. He always finds something positive in everything I do. And I figured, if he can do it, so can I.
Now, when I give feedback on something, I look for areas of improvement, as I did before. Then, I switch on my positive feedback mindset by looking for something I like about it. Because there must be something the creator did well, especially if they’re trying their best. And making them aware of it will also make their day. So, I find the positives and comment on them. With this mindset, every positive comment I leave comes from the heart. It also helps that I’m practicing more.
This made me realize one more positive aspect of positive feedback: it fills me with gratitude.
It made me realize that everything I review is precious in its own way. I see (and get) value in things I would’ve just seen as trash before. For example, when I review other people’s writing, I feel more inspired by their ideas than ever before. And that energy fuels me to push further with my ideas and writing, too.
We all understand the importance of addressing flaws, but there’s tremendous value in positive feedback as well. It’s not just beneficial for the one getting feedback. It’s good for the one giving it, too.
I hope you enjoyed this dive Below the Surface of positive feedback. Reply to email@example.com if you have questions or comments. Let me know how you feel about positive feedback. I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day. And I’ll see you in the next one.