I know that I just talked about feedback in last week’s post, but here we are again talking about feedback. Blame it on Adam Grant, the organizational psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania. I posted about Grant this summer while reading his book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. Since then, I’ve been listening to his podcasts and following him on Twitter and Instagram. Grant always shares an interesting, novel perspective on teaching, learning, relationships, work…. and so much more.
Here’s what Adam Grant posted a few days ago:
“The people who are nice to you aren’t always being kind to you. Saying what you want to hear is nice. People sugarcoat feedback to make you feel good today. Sharing what you need to hear is kind. People speak honestly to help you do better tomorrow. Candor is an act of care.”
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you should recognize that Adam Grant’s perspective resonates with me. In a post a few years ago, I shared how on Rate My Professors a student had written:
““Dr. Dreon teaches in an unconventional manner which may benefit some, but for me it was challenging…. His feedback is very blunt and to the point, so be prepared for that.”
As I wrote at the time, it’s not that I want to be a jerk or hurtful in any way. When I offer feedback to a student, I share what I think they need to hear at the time. I focus on what they’re capable of working on and how best I can support their learning. I consider these factors, but I definitely buy into Grant’s “Candor is an act of care” mantra.
Looking at the comments to Grant’s Instagram post, however, it’s clear that candor itself may be an incomplete lens. Rahaf Harfoush, who is a “digital anthropologist” and author, commented that:
“Candor is an act of care that requires trust. You need to trust that people have your best interest at heart and that they have good intentions in wanting you to improve.”
Harfoush’s comment made me think back to a quote I shared a few years ago.
“Trust is the well from which we draw the courage to let go what we no longer need and receive what we do. Without a reasonably well-established sense of basic trust, it is difficult to move ahead.” (Daloz, 1999).
While Daloz was writing about mentoring, their perspective is critical for teaching and learning, too. If we want students to have the courage to act on the feedback we offer with candor, we have to first establish trust with them to help them recognize our good intentions and that the feedback is offered for their benefit.
Daloz, L. A. (2009). Mentor: Guiding the journey of adult learners. John Wiley & Sons.