Psychology of feedback: How to give or receive valuable critique
How can you give and receive more productive feedback? Form a psychological contract with a trusted partner.
MELANIE KATZMAN: I encourage people to provide feedback to one another. It's a gift. It's also often part of your job. But, too often, we don't go far enough. So I suggest that we create psychological contracts. You don't do it with everybody, but it is an opportunity to agree to exchange extremely honest feedback by mutual consent in a safe and trusting way.
There's a number of different ways in which you can do that. One is in the immediate. I say to somebody who I trust, whose opinion matters to me, "I'm getting up on stage. Let me know afterwards: Was I clear? Did I give too much information, too little information? Did I move too much? Did I engage with the audience? Tell me the truth." That's an immediate request for honest feedback and we are creating a psychological contract. You're not going out of bounds if you tell me exactly what you think. I also tell people if they're going into a meeting, pick the person who's going to pull on their ear to let you know you're going off topic, whether your data is really not holding up in that room and getting an immediate sense from somebody the unvarnished truth about what's going on.
The other way in which we negotiate psychological contracts is to create a space within the group that you're working to say "We're going through big changes in our company right now. There's going to be a lot of noise in the hallways. Not everyone's going to like what we're doing but when we come into this room we're going to share what we're hearing, how we're feeling and we're going to work through that together." So it is creating a safe space; it's agreeing this is where we're going to bring that information and understand that not everything's going to be pretty, but we have mutually consented to having that sharing.
So, when we establish a psychological contract this is not a written agreement. This is an agreement between people, preferably, I look you in the eye or I speak to you directly and I ask permission and you give it to me. It doesn't exist, by the way, forever; you have to renew those contracts. You can negotiate them for the moment. You can negotiate them over a period of time. I say to you, "I know you're coming up for promotion. I'd really like to help you get to where you need to go. Would you like me to give you feedback on a more ongoing way?" I've asked you. You've given me permission. We've now contracted that, over a period of time, with a particular goal in mind we're going to have continual exchanges. You're going to expect that feedback from me and I'm going to take on the responsibility of delivering that to you regularly and clearly.
In the absence of negotiating that contract people can feel as if they have been impinged upon, that you are going beyond what is socially accepted or interpersonally comfortable. So be clear, be mutual, and then be extremely candid.
- Feedback is a gift, says business psychologist Dr Melanie Katzman. Giving or receiving feedback can be a formal part of our jobs, but in Dr Katzman's assessment, we often don't go far enough with feedback.
- Katzman suggests creating a psychological contract with a partner who you respect and trust. In that contract, you agree to exchange extremely honest feedback by mutual consent in a safe and trusting way.
- In this video, she lays out the rules for such a contract and how you can embark on one. This kind of feedback is not advised without a clear contract as people can feel you are going out of bounds. So be clear, be mutual, and then be extremely candid.
Young people could even end up less anxiety-ridden, thanks to newfound confidence
- The coronavirus pandemic may have a silver lining: It shows how insanely resourceful kids really are.
- Let Grow, a non-profit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood, ran an "Independence Challenge" essay contest for kids. Here are a few of the amazing essays that came in.
- Download Let Grow's free Independence Kit with ideas for kids.
New research establishes an unexpected connection.
- A study provides further confirmation that a prolonged lack of sleep can result in early mortality.
- Surprisingly, the direct cause seems to be a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species in the gut produced by sleeplessness.
- When the buildup is neutralized, a normal lifespan is restored.
We don't have to tell you what it feels like when you don't get enough sleep. A night or two of that can be miserable; long-term sleeplessness is out-and-out debilitating. Though we know from personal experience that we need sleep — our cognitive, metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune functioning depend on it — a lack of it does more than just make you feel like you want to die. It can actually kill you, according to study of rats published in 1989. But why?
A new study answers that question, and in an unexpected way. It appears that the sleeplessness/death connection has nothing to do with the brain or nervous system as many have assumed — it happens in your gut. Equally amazing, the study's authors were able to reverse the ill effects with antioxidants.
The study, from researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS), is published in the journal Cell.
An unexpected culprit
The new research examines the mechanisms at play in sleep-deprived fruit flies and in mice — long-term sleep-deprivation experiments with humans are considered ethically iffy.
What the scientists found is that death from sleep deprivation is always preceded by a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the gut. These are not, as their name implies, living organisms. ROS are reactive molecules that are part of the immune system's response to invading microbes, and recent research suggests they're paradoxically key players in normal cell signal transduction and cell cycling as well. However, having an excess of ROS leads to oxidative stress, which is linked to "macromolecular damage and is implicated in various disease states such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration, and aging." To prevent this, cellular defenses typically maintain a balance between ROS production and removal.
"We took an unbiased approach and searched throughout the body for indicators of damage from sleep deprivation," says senior study author Dragana Rogulja, admitting, "We were surprised to find it was the gut that plays a key role in causing death." The accumulation occurred in both sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice.
"Even more surprising," Rogulja recalls, "we found that premature death could be prevented. Each morning, we would all gather around to look at the flies, with disbelief to be honest. What we saw is that every time we could neutralize ROS in the gut, we could rescue the flies." Fruit flies given any of 11 antioxidant compounds — including melatonin, lipoic acid and NAD — that neutralize ROS buildups remained active and lived a normal length of time in spite of sleep deprivation. (The researchers note that these antioxidants did not extend the lifespans of non-sleep deprived control subjects.)
Image source: Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock/Big Think
The study's tests were managed by co-first authors Alexandra Vaccaro and Yosef Kaplan Dor, both research fellows at HMS.
You may wonder how you compel a fruit fly to sleep, or for that matter, how you keep one awake. The researchers ascertained that fruit flies doze off in response to being shaken, and thus were the control subjects induced to snooze in their individual, warmed tubes. Each subject occupied its own 29 °C (84F) tube.
For their sleepless cohort, fruit flies were genetically manipulated to express a heat-sensitive protein in specific neurons. These neurons are known to suppress sleep, and did so — the fruit flies' activity levels, or lack thereof, were tracked using infrared beams.
Starting at Day 10 of sleep deprivation, fruit flies began dying, with all of them dead by Day 20. Control flies lived up to 40 days.
The scientists sought out markers that would indicate cell damage in their sleepless subjects. They saw no difference in brain tissue and elsewhere between the well-rested and sleep-deprived fruit flies, with the exception of one fruit fly.
However, in the guts of sleep-deprived fruit flies was a massive accumulation of ROS, which peaked around Day 10. Says Vaccaro, "We found that sleep-deprived flies were dying at the same pace, every time, and when we looked at markers of cell damage and death, the one tissue that really stood out was the gut." She adds, "I remember when we did the first experiment, you could immediately tell under the microscope that there was a striking difference. That almost never happens in lab research."
The experiments were repeated with mice who were gently kept awake for five days. Again, ROS built up over time in their small and large intestines but nowhere else.
As noted above, the administering of antioxidants alleviated the effect of the ROS buildup. In addition, flies that were modified to overproduce gut antioxidant enzymes were found to be immune to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.
The research leaves some important questions unanswered. Says Kaplan Dor, "We still don't know why sleep loss causes ROS accumulation in the gut, and why this is lethal." He hypothesizes, "Sleep deprivation could directly affect the gut, but the trigger may also originate in the brain. Similarly, death could be due to damage in the gut or because high levels of ROS have systemic effects, or some combination of these."
The HMS researchers are now investigating the chemical pathways by which sleep-deprivation triggers the ROS buildup, and the means by which the ROS wreak cell havoc.
"We need to understand the biology of how sleep deprivation damages the body so that we can find ways to prevent this harm," says Rogulja.
Referring to the value of this study to humans, she notes,"So many of us are chronically sleep deprived. Even if we know staying up late every night is bad, we still do it. We believe we've identified a central issue that, when eliminated, allows for survival without sleep, at least in fruit flies."
We must rethink the "chemical imbalance" theory of mental health.
- A new review found that withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and antipsychotics can last for over a year.
- Side effects from SSRIs, SNRIs, and antipsychotics last longer than benzodiazepines like Valium or Prozac.
- The global antidepressant market is expected to reach $28.6 billion this year.
Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?
Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways.
Or is doubt a self-fulfilling prophecy?