Yesterday, as I was going around giving pointers to my students on their power points, I noticed a heavy dose of defensiveness coming back my way. There were excuses, there were explanations, there was jitteriness. I was dumbfounded. What is this?
These kids could not hear feedback without melting.
It made me reflect about what happens when I hear feedback, and what I saw was that, internally, my initial reaction is not so different. I, too, have lots to say back, but I keep it inside. As a perfectionistic kid who was accustomed to lots of academic praise, it is still hard for me to hear constructive feedback without immediately thinking it is some reflection of my competence or goodness as a person. I suspect I’m not alone in this.
One of the gifts of mindfulness is that it helps us slow down. We can notice these truths about ourselves and not react immediately. We don’t blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. We can soothe down our own hackles, and respond in a way that is appropriate and respectful.
Today, I did an exercise with my students in which they received both positive and constructive feedback from three sets of peers. I asked them to pick out one piece of feedback they thought was helpful and say to the class, “Thank you for pointing out…. That is helpful for my revisions.” I assured them they weren’t bad people for receiving constructive feedback, and it didn’t mean there presentations were bad. It’s important life skill to be able to hear feedback gracefully. They practiced a mindful response so that the next time we do critiques, maybe they can remember to pause and respond. Pause and respond.