CRITICISM & Synopsis of the new book: How to have impossible conversations.

by Eric Barker, 12/20/19, from How to Have Impossible Conversations (2019) by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay.

1. Attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. And only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

How much more positively would you respond if someone did that? In this era of hostile polarization I fear I would immediately and uncontrollably hug them.

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CRITICISM & Tim Tebow Has Many Haters. He Just Shared How He Handles Them In 2 Brilliant Sentences

by Scott Mautz, Inc. Magazine, 2/22/19.

Some fault Tebow for not materializing a robust NFL career after a brilliant college football run (capped by winning the Heisman trophy in 2007). Others doubt his ability to make it in professional baseball (the New York Mets signed him n 2016 and he’s been working his way up their farm system).

Still others are rubbed the wrong way by Tebow being very open and frequent in talking about his faith or in his habit of displaying unswerving optimism.

In a recent press interview detailed by InspireMore, Tebow, in typical upbeat and reflective fashion, shared this dual-sentence snippet of wisdom, which has gone viral:

“You’re always going to have critics and naysayers and people that are going to tell you that you won’t, that you can’t, that you shouldn’t. Most of those people are the people that didn’t, that wouldn’t, that couldn’t.”

Criticism is a fact of life. And we’re not wired to handle it well. In fact, psychology professor Roy Baumeister says it takes our brain experiencing five positive events to make up for the psychological effect of just one negative event.

… As I shared in Find the Fire, there are many ways you can reframe the way you view criticism. Here are four more powerful methods.

1. Know that anything worth doing attracts admiration and criticism.

Would you rather be judged or ignored? 

… In fact, one of life’s great imbalances is the fact that what others risk by criticizing is minuscule compared to what you risk by putting yourself out there (internet trolls I’m looking at you). But don’t let that stop you. Don’t ever let that stop you.

2. Seek improvement, not approval.

…When you adopt this philosophy, you’re drawn to criticism as a cradle of insight instead of steering away from it as a source of rejection…

3. Decide who gets to criticize you.

Not all criticizers are created equal, and some shouldn’t even get a seat at the table. Set criteria for those who make the cut, and mentally dismiss the rest (they’ll thus be too busy pounding sand to criticize you anymore).

Mentors are a particularly good choice for those on the short list…

4. Stay focused on the conclusion, not the criticism.

When you keep what you’re trying to accomplish in front of you at all times, you’ll speed through the sidebar of criticism. Renowned racecar driver Mario Andretti once shared his number one secret to his success in the sport: “Don’t look at the wall. Your car goes where your eyes go.” 

FEEDBACK & Harvard research shows “negative feedback” only works – when the recipient truly feels valued by the giver: 4 things to do.

Surprising Harvard Research Says Giving Negative Feedback to Peers Won’t Work (Unless You Do 1 Simple Thing)

by Scott Mautz, Inc. Magazine, 1/16/18.

“Harvard researchers say we’ve got it all wrong on giving negative feedback to peers. It’s useless if you don’t do this too.”

Giving negative feedback to peers can be as stressful and confounding as figuring out how to give feedback to your boss or how to give feedback to a difficult employee.

And now new research from Harvard says you might be wasting your time in doing so anyway.

The Harvard study indicates that giving or receiving peer-to-peer negative feedback rarely leads to improvement. In the study, coworkers that received negative feedback simply chose to avoid the corrective co-workers and sought to be around and strike up new relationships with more self-affirming co-workers. This is a process the researchers call “shopping for confirmation” (which sounds like the album title of a reunited boy-band).

As the study noted:

“There’s an assumption that what motivates people to improve is the realization that they’re not as good as they think they are. But in fact, it just makes them go find people who will not shine that light on them. It may not be having the intended effect at all.”

So this is terrific news for all of us that don’t exactly love doling out criticism, right? We’re off the hook because what’s the point, right?

Nope. There’s a catch.

Peer to peer negative feedback can work–when the recipient truly feels valued by the giver.

Again as the researchers noted:

“We put employees in a position to deal with dueling motivations: I need to feel I’m valuable, and I need to improve. And we don’t do a good job reconciling them with our feedback mechanisms.”

… Here are simple things you can start doing today:

1. Compliment them on who they are, what they do, or how they do it.

And be specific within this specificity. Being precise implies you care enough to notice and to take the time/brain power to thoughtfully articulate your appreciation…

2. Invest in their career.

Imagine how it would feel if all your co-workers felt truly invested in you and wanted to help you succeed in your career. Now give that energy to a co-worker.

Take the time to share balanced, thoughtful feedback (remember, corrective feedback will be more likely to work because you’re showing you value them by executing this very list). Find out what’s important for advancement in their career and gear your feedback towards that. And tell their boss when they’re over-delivering on a criteria/attribute important for their function.

3. Make them look good.

Give them credit (genuinely deserved) in public whenever you can–if they’re cool with that. It speaks to your genuine interest in seeing them succeed, as will your tougher feedback when the time comes.

4. Seek out their advice, listen, and act on it.

Some of the most satisfying moments in my career weren’t always when my boss agreed and took action on something I suggested, but when a peer did. It’s about relationships, not reporting lines.

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TRANSITIONS & What to do when people beat a path to a new pastor’s door w/ new ideas

by Ron Carucci, Harvard Business Review, 8/8/17.

A 10-year longitudinal study on executive transitions that my organization conducted found that more than 50% of executives who inherit a mess fail within their first 18 months on the job… there are six things the most effective leaders do to avoid failing in a new role…

Know the fine line between self-promotion and real help. Fearing for their very survival, people in a damaged organization will campaign at great lengths to prove their worth. My client had people beating paths to her door with ideas that had languished unheard. They were eager to offer their support, and even more eager to be seen as key players in the future she was constructing. In one debrief, she vented to me, “On one hand, some of the elements of their ideas are really good. On the other hand, they are so invested in convincing me how indispensable they are that they’ve lost objectivity about what is and isn’t feasible.” She felt obligated to hear their ideas but reluctant to offer critique, for fear of appearing not open to any ideas but her own. She knew she couldn’t symbolically accept ideas just to look like she’d listened, nor could she be the only one whose substantive ideas prevailed. She created a process of full transparency that allowed ideas to be judged on the merits of their potential impact, not on who brought them. Together, the team created a set of criteria that future solutions needed to meet, and all ideas were presented to the entire team, not just her. Further, she made it safe for each presenter to disclose any personal agenda about why they wanted their ideas adopted and what fears they had about their ideas not prevailing. She asked them to “honestly assess your idea as if you had no fears about job security.” Not only did this accelerate trust among them, it also allowed the best ideas to prevail…

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ADJUNCT SUCCESS & How to Learn From (and not get discouraged by) Student Surveys.

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/29/16.

I’ve been teaching students at Indiana Wesleyan University for 22+ years.  And that means for over two decades I’ve been reading student surveys. I often find that adjunct instructors teaching my classes can become discouraged after reading a few student surveys. Below are my eight tips, gleaned from over two decades of how to get the most out of them, without letting them get to you.

Step 1: Ask yourself if more than a handful of students have complaints.

Every course is going to have a few students who didn’t like how the course was organized or taught. But, unless you have a majority of students with similar complaints, you probably are hearing from just a few students. A strategic attribution error is to take outliers and attribute to them a majority perspective.

In every class there’s going to be some students who would prefer things to be handled differently. Don’t get too wrapped up in the criticism unless the majority of the responses are citing the same shortcomings. Thus …

  • If just one or two students are critiquing the same thing, go to the next step.
  • But, if it’s the majority saying the same thing then sit down and have a hard look at your teaching and curriculum to make adjustments. Then go to step two.

Step 2: Recognize that research indicates you will remember negative comments longer than positive comments.

I’ve often noticed that though there may be dozens of positive comments, it’s the one or two negative comments that bother me for days. In fact, research indicates that our brains are actually wired to remember negative comments in lieu positive ones. (See this article: CONFLICT & The Biological Reason Why Negative Comments Stick With Us So Much Longer Than Positive Ones,

Thus, you can’t let a few negative comments begin to obsess and worry you. Because of this, you should take them for what they are: comments with probably a grain of truth at their core. But don’t retain a focus on the negative comments and let them wear you down. As I mentioned above, research shows that negative comments stay with us longer and disturb to us longer than positive ones. Thus, the few negative comments are going to harass you and the good comments you’re going to be quickly forgot.

But there is a way around this. The Bible gives us the answer in Philippians 4:8-9 (The Message):

8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

So, read back over the positive comments. Take the positive comments to heart too. I found that you need to read them 2 to 3 times as many times as the negative comments just to keep them equally balanced in your mind.

Step 3: But, don’t dismiss the negative critiques because they are outliers.

When you get negative comments recognize there is probably a kernel of truth in each. Look for the truth and the things you can change in the negative comments. Take them to heart and see if they reoccur in other courses. It could be that they are minor critiques, whose accuracy won’t come out until after a series of courses.

Step 4: Don’t take to heart personal insults.

Sometimes negative comments can come from out of left field. Amazingly, students sometimes utilize the anonymous nature of a course survey to be rude and cast insults. The reason I think this happens is because students who are struggling can become frustrated. And, if they have developed a coping mechanism of projecting the problems on others to take the focus off of themselves, they will often take the end of course survey as an opportunity to criticize others. And you may be the first in their sight. So look for the grain of truth that set them off but don’t let insults or name-calling stay in your heart. Go back to step 2 if you are struggling with a particularly mean comment. (Note: if the comment is hateful speech and you feel yourself or others might be threatened by it, you must alert myself, your faculty supervisor, and the dean.)

Step 5: Don’t judge comments’ authenticity by their length, for good comments are usually short and critical comments are often long.

It is been my experience that students who are doing well in the course in enjoying it usually feel a couple short words of thanks and praise are sufficient. But those who have something regarding which they are concern will go at length to describe it. So don’t take the length of the comments as equal to their authenticity. Remember students who had something positive to say usual say it very briefly and not do any depth. Is the students who are frustrated and shared links who often fill out the faculty survey in detail.

Step 6: Pray for your students.

You should be praying for all of your students. But when because of the power of the negative comments you start to dwell on that negativity, then set aside time to pray even more for the student. Remember if it is clear the student is an outlier and still sharing negative comments or blaming you, it could be because they’re trying to take the focus off of their own frustrations. They may be frustrated with their performance in class, the finances involved in taking the degree program or the pressure they are feeling from balancing family, career and education. So take it as a prayer reminder when you receive such a negative comments to be praying for students that are struggling. And you should be praying for all students, but especially so for those who you know are struggling.

Step 7: Read the end of course survey when you are alert and not tired.

Being tired can make you susceptible to discouragement and depression (read the research from the Harvard Business Review article: “ETHICS & Why In the Afternoon, the Moral Slope Gets Slipperier at As an adjunct faculty member you may feel like giving up because you’ve worked so hard teaching a course. Then you think you will read the end of course survey for some encouragement, but you are reading it when you are tired and/or it is late at night. In such environs, the negative comments loom large and the positive comments seem to disappear.

So read the faculty survey at a time when you have energy to digest all the details and take to heart corrective steps. That way a negative comment won’t add to the discouragement that comes from lack of sleep, tiredness or low energy. Always read the comments at a time when you have energy to do something about them.

Step 8: Everybody gets bad comments, almost every time.

I’ve literally read hundreds of student surveys as well as hundreds of adjunct and colleague surveys. And even the most exceptional speakers/teachers will get negative comments every single time. It is the nature of graduate school students to critique and suggest improvements. And you already know from reading their papers that the young graduate school student may lack some tact in their enthusiasm for finding areas for improvement. So expect their negative comments to arrive, but handle them in the above 8-step matter and they won’t bring you down … but they will propel you forward.

TEAMWORK & When to Give Feedback in a Group and When to Do It One-on-One

… Give feedback in a team setting when:

  • One or more team members are experiencing negative consequences caused by other team members.
  • Team members are the source of the feedback.
  • The issue involves most of the team.

… Give feedback one-on-one when:

  • Other team members are not being affected by the behavior and have no information to provide.
  • You want to help the team member prepare for receiving team feedback or coach the team member after receiving feedback from other team members.

… Underlying this approach is the principle that team members are accountable for giving feedback directly to those with whom they are interdependent. Apart from team members doing their own work, this is the most basic form of team accountability. Leaders are continually exhorting their employees to work as a team and to be accountable to the team. But, if you always provide the feedback, you take away the opportunity for your direct reports to develop this essential skill, and you undermine the accountability required to function as a team.

If you’re thinking that it makes sense to give feedback on team issues in a team setting, but you’re concerned that your team doesn’t have the skills to do this, you’re not alone. Many leaders share this concern. You can begin changing this by talking with your team about how you expect team members to be accountable to each other — not just to you or the larger organization. If you share your expectations for your direct reports, agree on how you’ll work together, and give your team the skills to meet the agreed-upon expectation, you’ll find that problems get addressed sooner, fewer issues land on your own desk, and your team becomes a more productive, cohesive unit.

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CRITICISM & Self-distancing (talking about yourself in the 2nd or 3rd person) makes you calmer & able to take criticism

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “This research in the Journal of Current Directions in Psychological Science shows that you can handle criticism better if you reflect on yourself using non-first-person pronouns or your own name.  In other words, instead of saying “I felt they really attacked my view,’ you should say, ‘They really attacked Bob.’ This slight nuance of self-distancing has been shown to help you better appraise the situation without personal feelings getting overly involved. Read this research for the science behind this.”

Making Meaning out of Negative Experiences by Self-Distancing

by Ethan Kross (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) and Ozlem Ayduk (University of California, Berkeley), Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(3) 187-191, 2011.


Both common wisdom and findings from multiple areas of research suggest that it is helpful to understand and make meaning out of negative experiences. However, people’s attempts to do so often backfire, leading them to ruminate and feel worse. Here we attempt to shed light on these seemingly contradictory sets of findings by examining the role that self-distancing plays in facilitating adaptive self-reflection. We begin by briefly describing the ‘‘self-reflection paradox.’’ We then define self-distancing, present evidence from multiple levels of analysis that illustrate how this process facilitates adaptive self-reflection, and discuss the basic science and practical implications of this research.

Reprints and permission: DOI: 10.1177/0963721411408883

Download the article here …