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Meaningful ways to increase your productivity, performance and well-being backed up by scientific research.

Setting the Stage for Feedback

Feedback… it can be hard to give and even harder to receive. It can painfully point out assumptions, errors and omissions and reveal all the ways that we, or our programs, are not quite making the grade. Yet without feedback, we don’t know where we are making false assumptions, committing errors or accidentally omitting someone or something from the process. We cannot learn and grow without feedback.

So how we can make it a little less painful?  We can dig into research from neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists to help us understand how to give feedback more effectively.

First, we can adopt a growth mindset. Our brains have this amazing ability called plasticity – our brains can grow and strengthen new connections over time, with practice (Dweck & Yeager, 2019).  When we know and believe that our brains are capable of learning and growing, we change and adopt new behaviors that allow us to learn and grow. Carol Dweck’s research has shown that when we have a growth mindset, we view feedback as an opportunity to correct our mistakes and learn from them. When we have a fixed mindset (we do not believe our brains can learn and grow), we see feedback as threatening and evidence of our failure. When we adopt a growth mindset, we are willing to take on a challenging task and we are willing to learn from the experience as we receive feedback and make mistakes. We see the feedback and mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow. The important thing to remember is that throughout our lives, are brains are plastic and they can change when we learn no matter how old you are!

Second, we need to set the stage for giving and receiving feedback. It is important to give feedback when everyone is calm (Tabibnia & Radecki, 2018). When we are feeling stressed or threatened, our emotions take priority and we do not think clearly and the feedback will not be taken constructively. Further, emotions are contagious – if one person is feeling stressed and agitated that feeling will spread like wildfire (Hatfield, Cacioppo & Rapson, 1993). One way to get everyone relaxed and receptive to feedback, is to first remind the recipient of their values and how/when they have been successful in the past. By affirming one’s values and successes individuals are not threatened and are more receptive to considering the feedback and subsequent behavior change.

When you have a growth mindset in place and a calm situation in which the recipient is ready to learn more about how they can grow, the conditions are ripe to truly listen to feedback and prepare to take action. When we are calm and are reminded of our goals, values and past successes we are ready to fully understand what the needs and goals of our clients are and how we can grow and flex to walk alongside and support our clients.

Want to learn more about growth mindsets? Watch Carol Dweck’s TED Talk.


Dweck, C. S., & Yeager, D. S. (2019). Mindsets: A few from two eras. Perspectives in Psychological Science, 14(3), 481-496. . https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691618804166

Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Rappo, R. L. (1993). Emotional contagion. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2(3), 96-100. https://doi.org/10.1111%2F1467-8721.ep10770953

Tabibnia, G., & Radecki, D. (2018). Resilience training that can change the brain. Consulting Psychology, 70(1), 59-88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cpb0000110