Criticism is not Feedback

Jan 13, 2020 at 10:30 pm by pj



Criticism assumes your way is the better way and inhibits the brain from learning. Paying attention to weaknesses smothers the brain. Your brain responds to critical or negative feedback as a threat and narrows its activity. In a scientific study noted in “Nine Lies About Work” and “The Feedback Fallacy” (both by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall, Harvard Business Review) students hooked up to MRIs were asked what they were doing wrong and what needed to be fixed - their sympathetic nervous system lit up. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for intense physical activity and is often referred to as the fight-or-flight response. When students were asked about their dreams and how they might achieve them, their parasympathetic nervous system lit up. The parasympathetic nervous system has almost the exact opposite effect. This stimulates a sense of well-being, and even better immune system functioning. So, it's good for your health claims too!

The study also argues that disturbing the PEA is critical when creating or affirming a personal vision. The PEA is an endogenous stimulant of the human brain that amplifies the activity of major neurotransmitters for multiple bodily reactions including a sense of well-being and higher performance of your body and brain. Again, all positives for your health insurance claims.

So now what? Focus on positive outcomes and experiences. Discuss scenarios or meetings that went well. Such as "here are three things that went really well." Tell your team - "let's do more of that! I want all of our meetings to look like that. That - yes, that!" Describe your experience when you catch them doing something good. Trust me, they already know how you felt when they screwed up. Say something like "that made me feel proud and excited."


This is an excerpt from the most recent leadership book by Wendy Sellers, MHR, MHA, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, The HR Lady®