Sunday, February 20, 2011

Did Your Parents Praise You?

Sub-Title: The Power of Feedback!

In an earlier posting I wrote about “Who Should I Be.”  That article outlined a process of thinking, planning and executing your career aspirations.  Now, I like to talk about how I got to know myself better.   For me, an effective way to get to know me better is through good feedback.  Unfortunately, getting good feedback is difficult.  There is a tendency for the people I know not to give me the “real thing.”  Their feedbacks are mostly very general and tended to be statements that didn’t hurt me.  I, too, had the same difficulty of giving accurate feedback to others.

Culturally or maybe by superstitious practices, Chinese parents in particular do not praise the children. Some even give their children nicknames after animals.  There is Ah Kow (dog), Ah Too (pig), or Ah Goo (cow).  This is to ensure that the bad spirits will mistake them for the animals and not harm the children.  When others praise their kids, the praises are quickly dismissed.  The parents may be proud of their children but they will not say it out.  It becomes very difficult to know if your parents are proud of you.  I learn to identify certain behaviors of my parents that indicated good and not so good feedback.  My mother cooking my favorite dish when I visited her could be positive feedback.  Then it could just be love.  Mom doesn’t have to be proud of me to love me.  Her love is unconditional.

Great Speech! I am so proud of you.
Getting accurate feedback at work is just as difficult.  It is our tendency not to hurt another person’s feeling.  So feedbacks are softened with non-specific statements.  I know that those bitter “pills” will make me better in the future.  Unfortunately many of us are not good at giving effective feedback.  So should I disregard them even when they are non-specific?  Of course not!  I learn to ask questions to clarify them and to try to understand what the person really meant.  My questions are to clarify my behaviors or actions – what did I do on that situation and whether it positively affected them.

There are also tools and instruments that can provide information about one's behaviors, characteristics and traits.  These instruments help me understand my tendencies, my motivation and what “turns me” on.  They are not a one-time snapshot of me but more so, given a particular situation, how would I act or react.  It is interesting to complete these assessments and to see how well one correlates to the findings.  I have used a number of instruments.  Some are quite specific while others generally describe my characteristics.  I have used Myers-Brigg’s Type Indicator (MBTI), StrengthsFinder from Gallup, Caliper Profile from Caliper, Life Style Inventory (LSI) from Human Synergistics and others.  Whatever the instruments used are, they will be useful if it can be interpreted well, plans made and actions taken to improve oneself.  So to know more about your inner self, get yourself profiled with an instrument that is validated.  Get a knowledgeable person to interpret the findings.  Use the results to develop a plan to become better.  Then constantly ask for feedback to understand the effect your actions have on people and results.

Despite growing up in a culture that does not give good feedback, I have learned to “find” myself.  I get effective feedback by asking clarifying questions and using the information to continue to improve myself.   Remember that a good feedback will contain 3 important elements.  These are the situation that necessitates actions, the actions you took and the impact or result of those actions.  When receiving feedback or giving feedback make sure those three elements are there.  I wish you well in your endeavor to give and get good feedbacks.


  1. The part on mom's love being unconditional really touched me. My mom was just that - loving her children unconditionally. Now that I am an adult with my own children, I praise them and tell them I am proud of them when warranted. Thank you for your suggestion on making the feedback specific. It will come across more sincere. Regards, AB

  2. Dear AB, thank you again for your comment. I use the same principle when providing references. After all, references are feedback of sort. So I make sure that I outline the situation, talk about what the person did and the results the person achieved. One point that I didn't mention in the article is that, where possible, feedback should also be timely. Best regards, KL


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