A group of medical students were randomly divided into two groups. Each group was learning how to tie surgical knots.
Group 1 had professors who complimented them, saying “Good job,” and “Well done.”
Group 2, however, the professors offered very specific feedback on what the person was doing wrong and how they can do it better.
Is building self-esteem important?
Do you need more compliments for the job that you’re doing, or do you need feedback on how you can do it better?
Results indicated that the group with the professor who boosted their self-esteem—”hey, good work”—reported higher satisfaction with their professor, but were significantly worse at tying knots during surgery.
Here’s the question worth asking ourselves, wherever we are in our endeavors: Is building self-esteem the most important thing to do right now?
When we share something with someone, we ask, “What do you think?” Usually the responses are in the realm of making you feel good because rarely do people offer raw feedback—they don’t want to hurt your feelings. And worse, we walk away with the idea of, “Oh wow, they think my work is good.” And we remain content.
That’s not enough, nor will that help in the pursuit of mastery. What we need to be seeking is raw, honest feedback. How can we do this better? Not, “How can I feel better about what I’ve already done.”
Whenever I edit a project with a friend, they don’t shower me with compliments—I actually make it a point not to because my head will get too big and float away. If a paragraph or idea that I’m mentioning is good, they’ll tell me exactly why they think it’s good, what makes it good, and why it resonates. Many times, they completely break it apart, leaving my ego hurt, but ultimately the work becomes better.
In your quest for mastery, what should you be actively seeking? More pats on the back or more honest feedback?
(Source: Boehler, M. L. et. al (2006). An investigation of medical student reactions to feedback: A randomised controlled study. Medical Education, 40, 746-749.)