The sting of criticism lasts longer than the celebration of praise. This doesn’t help us in our workplace, where a big chunk of the feedback we receive focuses on improvement. Studies share that when people recall emotional events, they remember four negative memories for every positive one!
However, constructive feedback is crucial. How can we take the bite out of criticism, such that we can receive it, without internalizing it? The answer lies in a tool called RBS – Reflected Best Self.
Developed by organizational behavior experts from Harvard University, RBS allows employees to gain a clear picture of their ‘best self’. Researchers show that when companies focus on positive attributes such as resilience and trust, their bottom-line improves. Here are the four steps involved in the RBS process:
- Seek feedback from different people in your life – family, friends, current and past colleagues. Inputs from a variety of sources give you a much richer understanding of yourself, as compared to a performance evaluation. What inputs to ask for? Information about your strengths, accompanied by specific examples of moments when you used them.
- Recognize patterns in the feedback. Search for common themes of qualities in the feedback. Add your own observation to the examples. For instance, your friend, your manager, and your brother might have noticed your ease with challenging conversations, and how you manage emotions. In different circumstances and at different points in your life. Even small behaviors that are second nature to you, like greeting people or offering support, have a huge impact. Recognizing patterns helps uncover such behavior.
- Create a verbal self-portrait. Write a description of yourself that summarizes the accumulated information. Weave together themes, from the feedback and your self-observations, into an image of who you are at your best. The idea here – to use this as a reminder of your previous contributions, and as a guide for future action. Begin the portrait with, “When I am at my best, I…” Write two to four paragraphs that cement the image of your best self, in your mind.
Here’s an example: When I am at my best, I am curious and passionate about a project, and I can work intensely and untiringly. I enjoy taking on things that others might see as being too difficult. I’m able to set limits and find alternatives when a current approach is not working.
This process might bring forth information about why you’ve been unhappy or are underperforming at work, if at all. You’ll learn what is missing for you, in your role. You will also learn about your ‘possible self’ – not just the person you are in your job but the person you might be in different contexts.
- Make positive changes. Whether it is in the way you work, what work you do, or who you work with. The choice is yours. You have a good idea of what makes you shine. So, leverage your strengths!
Does this really work? While people remember criticism, awareness of faults doesn’t necessarily translate into better performance. By remembering your strengths, you can construct a plan to build on them. It also offers a better understanding of how to deal with your ‘weaknesses’, and gives you the confidence to address them.
Remember, that to be effective, the exercise requires commitment, diligence, and follow-through. After all, it’s about the best version of you!