It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and I’ve already written a post about the psychological benefits and importance of reflective writing and journaling over on Zoomly’s blog. So what’s left to say that’s relevant for The Feedback Book?
It’s one thing to pause for thought at the end of the day and think back to what went well – and not so well. It’s quite another thing to write those thoughts down. Writing allows us to capture all the everyday stuff that happens – good, bad or indifferent – and the act of writing helps us make sense of it. If your job requires you to give and receive feedback with colleagues (and if it doesn’t, what on earth do you do all day? I’m all ears…), keeping a journal will help you in heaps of ways. You will:
Get a sense of perspective
This can be invaluable if you’ve received some feedback that was pretty tough to hear. Even if it was delivered flawlessly, i.e. it was considered, clear and actionable, we can easily default to ‘fight or flight’ mode when we get corrective feedback. Our ancient evolutionary wiring kicks in, where we aim to pursue pleasure and avoid pain, and an everyday workplace conversation suddenly sets off a cocktail of hormones. If that cocktail gets a really good shake, we can panic or react aggressively, or go into a downward spiral of doom. Writing down our thoughts and feelings, along with our account of what actually happened, who said what (and how it was said), can help us see the comment needed to be made and we’d be wise to act upon it. Or maybe the feedback was inaccurate, or badly delivered – in which case writing down our thoughts on that can help us weigh up what, if anything, to do and say in response when the right time presents itself.
Notice when you’re being tough on some and gentle on others
We all have biases – again, as with pleasure/pain, this little bundle comes fitted as standard with the human brain. Biases can take different forms, such as being easier on colleagues who look and sound like us – and tougher on those who don’t. We can stumble into ‘horns or halo’ effect – when we react to someone’s less-than-perfect behaviour by allowing it to contaminate everything else they do (horns), or let a single instance of positive action cast a benign glow on everything else they do (halo). Use your written reflection to examine how consistent you are with different people and in different situations.
Spot missed opportunities to give feedback
As you reflect on the day/week/month (the more frequently you write in your journal, the better), consider what colleagues have been doing – well or otherwise – and the impact that behaviour has had. Sharpen your powers of observation and get really clear on this. Did you give them feedback at the time? Is it too late to give them feedback now or first thing tomorrow? Spot all those missed everyday opportunities to give feedback and develop the feedback habit. What did you notice? What will you say?
Give yourself feedback
This may be as straightforward as writing down your answers to simple-yet-powerful questions such as:
- What went well?
- How did that happen?
- What did I do that contributed?
- What didn’t go so well?
- How did my actions relate to the situation?
- What can I learn from today to apply tomorrow?