Monday, September 9, 2013

When delivering negative feedback, don't tell person "it could have been worse"

While this U. Vermont study reported by the Harvard Business Review blog addresses the effect of negative feedback on undergrad psychology students, it makes one wonder whether law students would react the same to teachers who tried to minimize their mistakes in an effort to shore-up their self-confidence. Intuition says that law students would especially appreciate hearing that from the teacher though as we all know, if intuition was accurate 747's wouldn't fly.

From a summary provided by the Harvard Business Review blog (go here to read the study itself).

After being subjected to the upsetting experience of receiving negative feedback on a task, research participants felt particularly badly, scoring an average of 4 on a 7-point positive-affect scale, if they were indirectly told that getting a low score on a task was a "not serious" event. By contrast, those who could decide for themselves on the seriousness of such an event felt less bad (4.63), even though they too tended to classify the experience as "not serious." The research, by a team led by Kristin W. Grover of the University of Vermont, suggests that people who have suffered misfortunes feel worse when their experiences are minimized by others, but feel better when they internally minimize the experiences themselves. Saying "It was for the best" or "It could have been worse" makes sufferers feel misunderstood and isolated, the researchers say.


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