Everyone likes positive feedback. It is known that it is helpful in building self-esteem and success. In fact, schools and parents have been doing a good job giving more positive feedback since the push in the seventies and eighties to build children’s self-esteem.

Research indicates self-esteem scores have jumped significantly for children in the last thirty years. I was actually part of that movement as I wrote my dissertation on the interaction of self-esteem, anxiety, and achievement.

However, in the last five years, experts have become concerned that the self-esteem movement has gone too far. This is based on the reaction tweens, teenagers, and adults with high self-esteem have when they get negative feedback. They think of it as criticism and do not know how to handle it. Some get angry and lash out; others get depressed and withdraw.

What seems to be happening is that many youth and young adults have grown up on a steady diet of positive feedback. Then when they get negative feedback, they do not see how they could be at fault. The constant stream of positive feedback does not help them learn how to be resilient.

For instance, a comment that is sometimes given to children by parents, coaches, and teachers is “good job” when in fact the job was not done well. This kind of feedback is not helpful even though it may be thought of as encouraging if the job is only okay or worse. This is because it creates a false sense of self-esteem.

I am recently hearing the comment “good job” a lot at softball games when balls or strikes are called by the umpire. The pitcher has not thrown a strike; the batter has missed the ball. I believe the pitcher and batter usually know when they are doing a good job. It confuses them if they are told “good job” or “you’re great” if it is not true at the moment. Would not it be better to say something like “Stay focused” or “Keep your eye on the ball?”

The same is true for adults. If your boss or supervisor or best friend tells you that you have done a good job on something and you have not, it can be confusing. Even worse, it can set you up for problems later on when you need to do the same thing. If you choose to do what you did before because you were told you did a good job and now it does not work, you may feel betrayed.

An okay job is not going to get you the new position or promotion you want. It is not going to help you improve your important relationships or contacts with people. It is not going to help you be a better student or supervisor or leader. It is important to develop a mindset that is open to feedback.

Stop and think for a minute how you feel and what you do when you get negative feedback. Of course your reaction might depend on who gave you the feedback. Some negative comments are easier to shrug off because you do not value the person’s opinion. Think about how you give feedback to your children or someone at work. Is it honest feedback given in a positive way?

As much as you do not want to get negative feedback about something you have said or done:

• Realize you cannot take steps to improve if you do not have the information you need to change your behavior.

• Start to ask for honest or accurate feedback so you can learn from it.

Having accurate self-esteem is important when you are setting goals to move ahead in your work, relationships, classes, or any area of your life that is important to you. Unrealistic self-esteem (too high or too low) will not help you handle the tough situations in life.

There are opportunities to learn and improve throughout your life. The most important thing is for you to want and get accurate feedback. This may mean you need to ask for it. Also, be sure to give others in your life accurate feedback in a positive way. You will be glad you did.

Author's Bio: 

Maurine Patten, EdD, CMC, Patten Coaching & Consulting.
For more information about how to get my free report: Unlock the Secret to Happiness and Success in Today’s World, go to
http://www.pattencoaching.com or http://www.pattencoaching.com/blog/ or Mailto:mdpcoach@pattencoaching.com