Feedback. It’s everywhere–from bosses, friends, teachers, husband and even our kids and Facebook. How do you take it? It’s a double-edged sword. We all want to improve our skills, but we also want to be liked and accepted.
This unique book addresses how to accept feedback gracefully whether your boss is giving you a review, your kids are commenting on their meatloaf dinner or your mother-in-law is offering snide commentary on your parenting style. Criticisms are among the most difficult conversations to have–but the new book, Thanks for the Feedback,aims to make it a little easier.
Now listen, sometimes the feedback you get is just plain crap. Sometimes it’s callous or wrong. But sometimes it’s right. What do you say or think or do in response? The authors of Thanks for the Feedback try to give you a guide to make friends with your mistakes. They want you to know the difference between when you should let it roll off your back and when you should take it seriously and try to improve.
The authors, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project hit it out of the park with well-researched insight, advice and tips. I asked them some questions below–they explain what feedback is 3 Quick Ways to Take Feedback Better.
KK: What do you mean by feedback?
DS and SH: We mean it both narrowly and broadly. Feedback is that performance evaluation or those test results, but in a bigger sense, this is a book about how to learn about ourselves from people and experiences – how to learn from life.
Feedback can be direct (“you missed your sales targets”) or indirect (when your boss said “good work, team,” she looked at your two colleagues, but not at you). And we’re constantly getting feedback in our personal lives as well – that comment from your mother-in-law about your permissive parenting, the way your spouse left this morning without saying the usual, “Love you.” It can be from your boss or your boyfriend, your neighbor or your niece, even from your suddenly-too-tight jeans. We get feedback from everywhere, and not only from the outside. Let’s not forget the ways we beat ourselves up – the feedback we get from ourselves can be some of the hardest to take.
KK: What are 3 Quick Ways to Take Feedback Better? DS and SH: Great question. The research shows that people who seek out feedback – especially negative feedback that they can learn from – are perceived to be more competent, settle into new roles more quickly, and get higher performance reviews. So here are three tips that will help.
1. Don’t ask: “Do you have any feedback for me?” Too broad. Too daunting. Instead ask: “What’s one thing you see me doing – or failing to do – that’s getting in my own way?” That lets people know you actually want the feedback, and gives them permission to be honest.
2. Don’t just tap people you like and who like you – they can’t help you with your edges because they don’t see your edges. You live or work well and easily together. It’s the people we struggle to get along with who are often in a position to offer us something valuable about ourselves. They see our edges because they are so wonderfully adept at provoking them. Asking them about one thing you’re doing that’s getting in the way will not only elicit valuable insight into what you can do to reduce the friction, it will also be a bold step toward improving that relationship.
3. When you’re really struggling with feedback that seems fundamentally “off,” divide a sheet of paper into two columns and make two lists. On the left, list all the things that are wrong with the feedback. What they are saying isn’t true, it’s unfair, they’re one to talk, when they gave it was inappropriate, how they gave it was pathetically unskilled, why they gave it is suspect. Now on the right make a list of things that might be right about the feedback. Too often we use all that is wrong with the feedback we get to cancel out the possibility that there is anything right about it. Your feedback might be 99 percent wrong, but that 1 percent that’s right might be just the insight you need. And once you get good at listening for what’s right, not just what’s wrong, you’ll do that in your conversations themselves more easily – getting curious about what they mean that might be helpful. That’s when you can really accelerate your own learning and improve your relationships. (more…)
Is your toddler driving you nuts? If so, that’s totally okay! You are among friends here. All of us have had toddlers who made us bonkers. But what you have that we didn’t is this new book, How Toddlers Thriveby Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D. (with a fun and reassuring foreword by Sarah Jessica Parker). Tovah is also the director of the Center for Toddler Development at Barnard College. Check out Parents editorial assistant Ruthie, who recently attended Tovah’s book party.
Tovah tackles the most common issues and gives you real-life research and advice you can put to use. First of all, parents need to understand how those barely-walking baby minds think. The skill they most need to learn at age 2 is not how to share a toy or pee on the potty, but self-regulation. That alone is the key to their future success, Dr. Klein says.
Other topics in the book include thinking like a toddler (which helps you tame them), and “cracking the code” on everything from eating/sleeping/peeing routines to tantrums to sharing/playing/being alone. She’s full of useful tips that will help you and and your 2- to 5-year-old.
I really like these 5 Tips for Toddlers Who Freak Out About Getting Dressed:
1. Prepare in Advance
Put out two outfits your child can choose from in the morning. They need to feel a sense of power.
2. Give Limited Choices
“Dress or long pants?”
3. Buy Fewer Clothes
The fewer clothes your child has to choose from, the fewer fights you will have with her. Plus, you’ll save money!
4. Let Her Dress Herself
Even if you’re in a hurry, take the time to let her put that sock on. She will feel so proud.
5. Make It a Game
Whenever a tantrum is about to erupt, put a pair of panties on your head to turn tears into giggles.
The title of this new book screams for attention: ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s so sensational that it turned me off at first. But once I dig into the author, Richard Saul, M.D.‘s arguments, I see he’s completely serious and legit.
As a behavioral neurologist who is certified in pediatrics, Saul has been seeing children and adults who think they have ADHD for 50 years. He believes that they do not have this disease. Instead, they have symptoms that can be treated. It’s a huge mistake to pop pills like Adderoll and Ritalin. People want a magic solution to get their kids–or themselves–to sit down and shut up. But these drugs are stimulants, and Saul says they lead to dangerous addictions.
He urges health care professionals and patients to dig deeper. One adult man complained that he could not turn off his television, computer and games, and he was going crazy. He was sure he had ADHD. Saul discovered he was only sleeping 4 to 5 hours a night and diagnosed him with sleep deprivation. Saul prescribed black out shades, a noise machine and a program that turns off all devices at midnight. The patient’s health dramatically improved.
The real conditions and disorders he diagnoses include vision and hearing problems, substance abuse, mood disorder, giftedness (kids need more challenge sometimes!), seizure disorders OCD, Tourette’s and Aspberger’s. He digs in and treats what is really wrong.
ADHD Does Not Exists is a wake-up call to get patients and professions off the Adderall and Ritalin. Saul acknowledges that attention and hyperactivity do exist. But there are so many better ways to tackle them than what we mostly see used today.
What do you think? Is ADHD a real disease or a catch-all excuse to put people on pills?
When I’m not writing this blog, I teach yoga classes. A woman fell out of her half-moon pose the other day and said, “Falling is very, very bad!” I said, “Falling is excellent! How else will you learn half-moon if you don’t fall 50 times? That’s exactly how all of us learned to get balanced and get strong.” She was so devastated to fail, but why? Failing is the key to success.
KK: My kids get trophies just for playing soccer or participating in gymnastics class. Is giving out rewards like this good for our kids? How can it hurt them? What should our schools—and we as parents—be doing differently to prepare our kids for life? MM: Failure doesn’t feel good. We probably all remember how bad it felt to be the kid who got picked last for the team or tried as hard as we could to win a prize but still fell short. It’s natural that we should want to shield our kids from that bad feeling by setting up games where “everybody wins.” But one of the most important lessons we learn in life is how to pick ourselves up after we try something—and flop. From babies learning to walk, to scientists figuring out how to split an atom, learning is a process of trial and error. A whole lot of error. The greatest successes are people who have failed again and again, learning along the way what doesn’t work . . . and from that, what does. When we shield our kids from failure, we’re teaching them that failure isn’t just unpleasant, but unimaginably horrible. They are sometimes completely derailed. Learning to cope with failure is one of the most important things anyone can teach. Kids who never confront failure won’t be equipped to dodge the curveballs that life inevitably sends you way, and will flounder once they hit the workforce.
KK: In what ways does the United States view failure and risk taking differently than other countries? Why is it easy to get rich in America and hard in Zimbabwe (or France)?
MM: America is a nation founded on failure. Why did our ancestors come here? By and large, because things weren’t working out back home. That heritage can be seen in our attitude towards failure. We admire people who don’t succeed at first but try, try again. We have higher rates of entrepreneurship, and we are more forgiving toward people who have tried to start a business and failed. We’re also more forgiving of people who have failed in other ways—our bankruptcy laws are the most generous in the world. When you make it easy for people to take risks, you also make it easy to get ahead. The more forgiving your culture is towards failure, the more welcoming it is of success.
KK: Which is better, frequent small failures or an occasional big failure? How can we encourage our kids to fail? MM: “Fail fast to succeed soon.” That’s the motto of a lot of startups, for good reason. Small failures are easy to recover from. Big failures that build for a long time are much more likely to be catastrophic. Businesses, governments and parents should encourage people to fail early and often—but also to recognize their failures and cut their losses quickly.
KK: Why is consistency so key to changing bad habits, from toddler tantrums to self-destructive behavior?
MM: I said earlier that people are obsessive pattern-makers. We learn how to behave by observing what happens when we do certain things. If we like what happens, we do it again, and if we don’t, we try to avoid whatever we did to trigger it. That means that if you want to teach a kid—or an adult—how to behave, you need to have absolutely consistent rules. That allows them to successfully predict what results their behavior will produce. Small punishments that are doled out for every single transgression are much more likely to produce behavior change than larger punishments that are delivered inconsistently—and the same is true of rewards. So if you want to raise well-behaved kids, or help adult prisoners rehabilitate themselves, the most important thing you can do is focus on making sure that the same behavior gets punished or rewarded the same way every single time.
Need some inspiration to get back up, try again, and smile? Check out this video, Epic Animal Fails.
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Try seeing things differently, and your whole day can be tons better. Family therapist Jude Bijou believes this so much that she’s written a book called Attitude Reconstruction. This works especially when you’re dealing with your kids–what if their most annoying behaviors were good for them? Well, they are! According to Bijou: “Kids test parents’ patience all the time. They whine, bargain, cry, mope and dawdle. They yell and scream and make themselves the center of attention. Sometimes they dig their heels in and simply refuse to budge.
While we may wish our kids would be compliant, cooperative and sunny in temperament, the reality is that they are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. They are learning how to manage their emotions–whether it’s sadness, anger or fear. Kids do this by expressing themselves in the moment. Unlike adults, most young children don’t hold in what they are feeling. They release pent-up emotions right when they feel them, if we let them, and then they move on!
This is so healthy. As a parent, the lesson is to learn patience, rather than being ashamed and rushing children out of what they are doing. Letting children express their emotions constructively and physically helps them develop into happy, normal, full-functioning kids, teens and adults.
Here are 6 annoying things children do that are actually very healthy behaviors:
1. Have temper tantrums. When toddlers have meltdowns, they’re expressing their anger at injustices and violations. They release the hot, aggressive energy of anger by screaming, crying, pounding their fists, and kicking. After a full-blown tantrum, small children quickly return to their sweet and joyful selves. The best thing parents can do is to allow the child do it–safely. For older children as well as adults, parents can set up an “OK Room” where anyone can pound, stomp, yell or cry constructively when upset. Anger, sadness, and fear will quickly pass and calm will be naturally restored.
2. Cry easily. In generations past, children were told not to cry. Boys who cried were “sissies” and girls who cried were “babies.” In reality, tears are very healing. Research shows that crying almost immediately reduces the level of stress hormones in the body. Letting a child wail after she’s fallen down actually helps her feel better. Crying allows kids to resolve and self-heal their physical, emotional, and psychological hurts and losses.
3. Act scared. Many young kids are afraid of the dark, get scared by lightning and thunder, and feel anxious when they’re in a new place with strangers, especially without their parents. Rather than telling them “Don’t be a scaredy cat,” validate their fear. They are feeling what they feel because their sense of safety is threatened. Fear is normal and healthy. In fact, it can be life-saving. Offer reassurances, and give them permission to shiver and quiver (kids love to do this–and they soon dissolve into laughter). Letting kids express their fear helps them stay present, rather than feeling anxious, overwhelmed and ashamed of being weak.
4. Dawdle.For parents who are focused on getting kids bathed, dressed, fed, and ready for school, there’s almost nothing more irritating than a child who seems to be moving at a snail’s pace. Children have to learn how family schedules operate and how to gain mastery over new skills–and that takes time. Moving like molasses can also be a child’s way of expressing his or her discomfort with transitions. If you have a child who’s always one step behind everyone else in the family, instead of getting angry at him for holding up the show, give him extra time by letting him eat in the car, for example, or by waking him up earlier. This will honor his individuality and help him adjust at his own pace.
5. Plead and whine. Children and teens are geniuses at getting what they want and need. They plead and nag and whine until their parents toss up their hands in surrender. What they’re doing is important. They’re learning to test limits–theirs and yours–and they’re working hard to negotiate their side and be heard. It’s important that children feel their position is taken into consideration, so listen a bit to understand and validate them. It’s equally important to lovingly set and enforce reasonable limits so children learn that they’re not always going to get what they want.
6. Be resistant. When a child stomps her feet and yells “No, I won’t do it!” she’s expressing a spontaneous emotion. Anger. Outrage. Injustice. Violation. It’s as essential that children are allowed to assert themselves as it is for adults to do this. It’s just that we’ve been programmed as parents to expect our kids to obey us. If it’s inappropriate to the situation, parents should explain to the child that she needs to help and be part of the team right now, but tell her when you will be able to listen to her side. If a child is adamant in her resistance, pause. She is telling you what emotions she needs to express in order to feel happy. Help her find a safe place at an appropriate time and let her do that.
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Jude Bijou MA MFT is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and workshop leader. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her multi-award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.