Beyond "I Like Your Shoes": Aligning Comments with Values

Unless we're purposeful, our messages often contradict our values.

Posted Mar 07, 2019

Often, when we hear the word feedback, we imagine a formal evaluation meeting or slightly disguised criticism. 

However, feedback is actually neither of those things. Feedback is simply information from the environment about the impact of our actions and choices.

Conflict180
Source: Conflict180

For this reason, feedback is happening ALL THE TIME.

When we make passing comments to colleagues or students in the hallway, when we respond to someone's answer in class, or when we tell someone why their behavior is not working - we are giving them feedback about what is important to us.

However, unless we are prepared and purposeful about our feedback, our messages often contradict our actual values.

For instance, we say that attendance and engagement are important to us.

Yet, when we see a student in the hallway or a colleague in a meeting we say "I love your hair!" or "Cute hoodie!"—inadvertently giving them feedback that what matters around here is how we look. This is totally normal and not a reflection on our character. Physical compliments are low hanging fruit and an easy way to express warmth. Thus, if we are not prepared with a different message, we are more likely to focus on appearance as a way to be friendly.

As another example, we say that we care about "growth mindset".  In a nutshell, this means praising hard work and effort rather than correct answers.

Yet, how often in class or during a professional meeting do we inadvertently show enthusiasm for the right answer rather than praising courage and validating effort. How often do we say: "First of all, I appreciate your courage in responding. That was a tricky question and not many people even raised their hands."

Or: "First, I appreciate your honesty. It's not easy to be the first one to give an opinion that goes a little outside the group. And yes—I can see how that character was both generous and a little selfish at the same time."

If this is intriguing to you, your challenge for the month of March is to work on aligning your comments (your informal feedback) with your values. 

Elaine Shpungin, Conflict180
Value-based feedback.
Source: Elaine Shpungin, Conflict180