American researchers have found that in general, people avoid making constructive comments to others, even when the comments can help them improve their performance.
- In this study, only 2.6% of participants told the person in front of them that they had a chocolate or lipstick stain on their face.
According to a study published by the American Psychological Association (APA), adults often underestimate others’ desire for feedback and therefore do not give feedback, even if it is relevant information. which could allow them to improve. Previous research suggests that people refrain from making comments because they are afraid of upsetting the other person.
In these new works published in the journal Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers from the Harvard Business School (USA) have put forward another hypothesis. According to them, adults refuse to give feedback because they do not know the potential of their contribution to improving the performance of others, which leads them to underestimate the desire of others to have feedback.
Five experiences with 1,984 people
To find out if their theory is correct, the authors performed five experiments involving 1,984 people. In one of them, the participants were presented with ten awkward situations at work, in which they could either give constructive advice or receive feedback. In another experiment, volunteers were asked to recall a situation in which they could have either made a constructive remark or had feedback. In the last experiment, the adults formed groups of two. One of them had to practice giving a speech for a competition and the other was in charge of listening to him and giving his opinion.
Underestimating the need for feedback from others
According to the results, participants able to provide feedback consistently underestimated others’ desire for feedback. The greater the feedback (e.g., telling someone they need to improve their presentation skills), the more participants were likely to underestimate the other’s need for feedback and the less likely they were to do it. Researchers have found that taking a step back can increase the likelihood that a person will notice the need for feedback and give it.
“If you are hesitant to give constructive feedback, we recommend that you do. Take a second and imagine that you are in the other person’s shoes. Ask yourself if you wanted feedback if you were in their shoes. chances are, and that awareness can help encourage you to come back to her.” said Nicole Abi-Esber, lead author of the work, in a statement. According to Francesca Gino, co-author of the study, “Feedback is essential for improvement”.