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Episode 16: Your feedback isn't as impactful as you think it is. Here's why.

In this episode of How Peo­ple Work, Jor­dan and Jason delve into var­i­ous aspects of the feed­back fal­la­cy and its impact on per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al growth. The intro­duc­tion sets the stage, high­light­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of man­agers in deter­min­ing the health of an orga­ni­za­tion. The dis­cus­sion then shifts to the com­mon claim that every­one wants direct feed­back, ques­tion­ing its validity.

The pod­cast explores how well-inten­tioned attempts to help oth­ers learn might inad­ver­tent­ly lim­it their growth, rais­ing ques­tions about con­ven­tion­al wis­dom that encour­ages work­ing on weak­ness­es. Instead, Jason and Jor­dan argue to reject this claim and focus on strengths.

Peo­ple hin­der their own growth by fix­at­ing on weak­ness­es, and Jor­dan advo­cates for a shift in per­spec­tive. Great man­agers are high­light­ed as those who pri­or­i­tize lever­ag­ing the strengths of their team mem­bers when build­ing their teams.

Jason chal­lenges the belief that oth­ers are more aware of our weak­ness­es than we are, empha­siz­ing the of self-dis­cov­ery over feed­back, sug­gest­ing that per­son­al explo­ration yields greater benefits.

Now avail­able on: YouTube | Apple Pod­casts | Spo­ti­fy

Word of the day

  • Rar­efied — Jason wins again!


  • 0:00 Intro
  • 2:14 Man­agers deter­mine the health of an organization
  • 4:02 Every­one says they want direct feed­back. But do they really?
  • 5:30 50% of your rat­ing of some­one else is real­ly just reflec­tive of your own characteristics
  • 8:23 Receiv­ing feed­back from some­one you trust may help you accept and inter­nal­ize it more, but you can only pro­mote growth beyond that set point
  • 11:21 You could be lim­it­ing your peo­ple’s growth in the way you’re going about try­ing to help them learn
  • 12:06 Humans learn­ing as an emp­ty ves­sel vs. buds on a branch
  • 14:45 Con­ven­tion­al wis­dom tells us to work on our weak­ness­es. Why we should reject that claim
  • 16:59 Peo­ple are sti­fling their growth by focus­ing on their weaknesses
  • 18:25 Great man­agers focus on the strengths of their peo­ple when build­ing their teams, not the weaknesses
  • 22:07 Oth­ers are not more aware of your weak­ness­es than you are 29:59 We are hard­wired to make up sto­ries of why some­thing might be when we don’t under­stand something
  • 35:18 Self-dis­cov­ery is more valu­able than feedback


Jor­dan (00:05):

How many hours and years of our lives do we spend on work? For near­ly all of us, we spend 30 plus years and one third of our days in our voca­tion, more time per­haps than we spend at rest or at play. But this isn’t a prob­lem. Why? Because work is good. Work needs to be inte­grat­ed deeply into our lives and must be in line with our most impor­tant goals and val­ues. And if it is, we have a far more com­plete and ful­fill­ing life expe­ri­ence. Wel­come to the How Peo­ple Work pod­cast, where we explore the inter­sec­tion of how humans think and act and how they apply them­selves to their work. When you under­stand both of these things, you’ll be equipped to be insight­ful, com­pas­sion­ate, and com­pelling leaders.

Jor­dan (00:50):

Wel­come back to How Peo­ple Work. This is Jor­dan Peace with my co-host Jason Mur­ray. Say hi, Jason. Hel­lo. Nice deep hel­lo. Wel­come to Episode 16. Today we’re going to be talk­ing about feed­back and some­thing called the feed­back fal­la­cy, as coined by Mar­cus Buck­ing­ham and Ash­ley Goodall in a recent Har­vard Busi­ness Review arti­cle that they wrote. Jason has been, as we like to say, nerd­ing out on this recent­ly. And as he’s going to walk us through this arti­cle, the things that real­ly jumped out to him, and we’ll dis­cuss our thoughts and feed­back on this idea of the feed­back policy.

Jason (01:31):

Yeah, it’s recent as of 2019. Okay. I think when it first came out, but -

Jor­dan (01:38):

So my word, I’m not sure my word recent was appropriate.

Jason (01:41):

Well I mean, the fun­ny thing was when I came across it for the first time, I was like, how have I nev­er heard about this arti­cle before? Although it is one of Har­vard Busi­ness Review’s, like top hun­dred arti­cles of all time or some­thing. So at least some num­ber of peo­ple. I imag­ine that is a large number.

Jor­dan (01:57):

That’s a big one. Yeah, sure .

Jason (01:59):

Has read this, but -

Jor­dan (02:00):

That’s okay. We don’t have to jus­ti­fy the arti­cle you picked. Yeah, it’s our pod­cast. Let’s just do it.

Jason (02:04):

It cer­tain­ly does­n’t feel that it’s become wide­spread or con­ven­tion­al wis­dom, let’s say, as it relates to busi­ness practice.

Jor­dan (02:12):

It takes decades for some­thing to become conventional.

Jason (02:14):

And it felt like it was per­fect for How Peo­ple Work because some of the stuff they elu­ci­dat­ed in the arti­cle real­ly has to do with how we as human beings work. Some of the kind of brain sci­ence behind how feed­back works, as well as how we go about at work. Because the appli­ca­tions of these things are very much in rela­tion to a work­place set­ting and how we oper­ate as teams and what­not. And in par­tic­u­lar how man­agers or peo­ple respon­si­ble for giv­ing feed­back who tend to be man­agers and lead­ers work with their teams. And so I thought that was inter­est­ing because in some pre­vi­ous episodes we have dis­cussed how man­agers can be essen­tial­ly the lim­iters or the gov­er­nors on the growth of an organization.

Jor­dan (02:59):

Absolute­ly. And they deter­mine the health of the cul­ture of the orga­ni­za­tion. The num­ber one rea­son for peo­ple leav­ing an orga­ni­za­tion is their man­ag­er. Right. Hard­er to sur­vey, but I would guess poten­tial­ly the num­ber one rea­son why peo­ple stay is also their manager.

Jason (03:15):


Jor­dan (03:16):

If they have a good one. That’s my own guess on that. I’m not sure the data around that, but that’s inter­est­ing. I mean, the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom, obvi­ous­ly where we’re head­ed here because the arti­cle is called the Feed­back Fal­la­cy. You would think feed­back­’s good. Feed­back is a very good thing. I’ve had many peo­ple ask me for feed­back or tell me I’m not giv­ing them enough feed­back or that we should do 360 reviews or we should blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. There’s always an ask for how am I doing? Give me feed­back, what­ev­er to scratch some kind of itch of inse­cu­ri­ty or what­ev­er the case may be. So I’m inter­est­ed to dig into this and find out why that is maybe not the right approach.

Jason (04:02):

Yeah. Well, it’s fun­ny because I was lis­ten­ing to a pod­cast ear­li­er this week and they were talk­ing about it. Feed­back came up, it was­n’t the cen­tral theme, but feed­back came up as kind of a top­ic they were dis­cussing. And it was fun­ny because they were say­ing, well, I always ask employ­ees how do they want to receive feed­back? And every­one will tell you that they want direct feed­back. And they were laugh­ing about it. Cause they’re like, every­one lies, nobody actu­al­ly wants direct feed­back because when they get it, it’s real­ly hard and it’s emo­tion­al and you don’t real­ly take it well. And I thought, oh, that’s so fas­ci­nat­ing because it actu­al­ly relates very direct­ly to a lot of the sci­ence and the research and this par­tic­u­lar arti­cle or paper, if you will, around why that is why it’s hard to receive feed­back. So to set a lit­tle bit of con­text here, I mean, many peo­ple lis­ten­ing prob­a­bly under­stand that feed­back is some­thing that has been encour­aged and sort of praise and crit­i­cize what work­ers do.


So your job as a leader man­ag­er is like tell peo­ple when they’re doing a good job, tell peo­ple when they’re doing a bad job. But it turns out from this research that Mar­cus Buck­ing­ham and Ash­ley Goodall have done that the feed­back does not actu­al­ly help employ­ees thrive or it does­n’t help in the way that we’ve often thought it does. And so there’s a cou­ple the­o­ries that they lay out here that we’ll go through, but to kind of set the table for those, the research kind of high lev­el shows that peo­ple can’t reli­ably rate the per­for­mance of oth­ers. And so what they found is that more than 50% of your rat­ing of some­body else real­ly just is reflec­tive of your own char­ac­ter­is­tics, not that par­tic­u­lar indi­vid­ual. Sec­ond­ly, that the neu­ro­science behind all this reveals that crit­i­cism pro­vokes this flight or flight — fight or flight response in human beings.


And which is a very deeply wired kind of evo­lu­tion­ary part of our kind of brain chem­istry. And it actu­al­ly inhibits our learn­ing. And so feed­back is designed or thought of to help pro­mote learn­ing and growth when in fact, crit­i­cal feed­back in par­tic­u­lar trig­gers this fight or flight response, which actu­al­ly means our brain shuts down. We’re not able to learn and grow through that in the same way. And then last­ly, excel­lence looks dif­fer­ent for each indi­vid­ual. And I think this one is real­ly par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing, but the excel­lence is idio­syn­crat­ic. And so it’s not just sort of some­thing objec­tive that’s trans­ferred from me. I know how to do things well and I’m going to share with you how to do those things well. That is much more indi­vid­u­al­is­tic and con­text spe­cif­ic for each and every indi­vid­ual. So

Jor­dan (06:45):

Wow, that’s fas­ci­nat­ing. It makes per­fect sense. That first bul­let there around more than half of the rat­ing you’re giv­ing some­one else is just a reflec­tion of how you see your­self and maybe how you see that oth­er per­son dis­tinct­ly dif­fer­ent than your­self. And you’re kind of judg­ing what’s good, what’s bad, what are good qual­i­ties, what are bad qual­i­ties, or what’s a good approach or good lan­guage based on me as I am the cen­ter­piece of the uni­verse and the arbiter of what is and should­n’t be. Right? So that makes per­fect sense. We are very focused on our­selves and very much see the world through the lens of how sim­i­lar or dif­fer­ent is some­one else than me. And that’s kind of how we make a val­ue judg­ment. So that’s fas­ci­nat­ing. I’m inter­est­ed in this fight or flight response. I won­der what’s meant by crit­i­cism. I won­der how much the depth of rela­tion­ship mat­ters there. I won­der how much, if there’s inti­ma­cy and trust, then that crit­i­cism can come across as some­thing real­ly help­ful, con­struc­tive, but yeah, that fight or flight intense, that that’s an intense reac­tion to, Hey, I did­n’t real­ly love the way you led that train­ing. Yeah, I think you could have done bet­ter here and there that it is vis­cer­al, just like, well, I’ll just get out of here. No, or I’m going to argue with you about it.

Jason (08:23):

Yeah. I mean, think it’s inter­est­ing and it sort of jumps ahead a lit­tle bit, but it’s worth jump­ing ahead to that point because I think it’s a ques­tion that I had as well when I came across this as well. If it’s some­body that I real­ly trust and val­ue their opin­ion and can maybe receive it with­out such emo­tion­al angst, let’s say that per­haps it’s bet­ter. And what they would say here is that the kind of sci­ence around how our brains work is that there’s sort of a learn­ing set point. And so real­ly neg­a­tive crit­i­cism does­n’t pro­mote growth. It can cor­rect you back to a set point.

Jor­dan (09:07):

Inter­est­ing. Okay.

Jason (09:08):

And so what hap­pens then is maybe from a friend, I can receive that crit­i­cism more open­ly, and so I’m able to accept it and inter­nal­ize it. And when I do so it does­n’t actu­al­ly pro­mote growth beyond that set point. It just restores me to that set point. So it’s like if there is neg­a­tive crit­i­cism that actu­al­ly is true and mer­it­ed, let’s say, yeah, then it’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly help­ing me grow beyond a cer­tain point. It’s just bring­ing me back up to that lev­el set point.

Jor­dan (09:36):

This is a real­ly basic exam­ple, but what came to mind? So my son is in his, what, I guess, third year play­ing base­ball, Jack­son, the sev­en year old, and work­ing with him on his swing and which is a del­i­cate thing to begin with, with kids, because my dad will tell you, he over-engi­neered my swing and actu­al­ly my swing kind of fell apart when I was a teenag­er and he blames him­self and I’m like, I don’t care. I was nev­er going to be a pro base­ball play­er. It’s not that seri­ous. But he still beats him­self up. But I think about all the lit­tle cor­rec­tions I give him, keep that back elbow up, stop drop­ping your shoul­der, those sorts of things. It’s like I’m just get­ting him back to the set point of the swing that’s as good as he can pro­duce right now. But I’m not, well, some­times I do, but when I give him new ideas, I’m just like, Hey, actu­al­ly you don’t real­ly hit with your arms, you hit with your hips. You got to pull your hips through and show­ing that there can be a marked improve­ment. Well beyond the dif­fer­ence between get­ting back to that set point. And I’ve seen, and I know this is sil­ly because, but it’s just what I’ve been focus­ing on the last cou­ple of months with him, and he’s so into base­ball right now. So it’s real­ly impor­tant to him to learn. And he has grown leaps and bounds, but not so much because of the lit­tle cor­rec­tions and the crit­i­cisms, but because of the new ideas, because of the dif­fer­ent aspects of take a step towards the pitch­er or take, get, get back in the box a lit­tle bit and let the ball trav­el a lit­tle for what­ev­er, those new lit­tle things and he just lights up and grows sig­nif­i­cant­ly. Again, it’s maybe not the best exam­ple for work.

Jason (11:21):

I think it’s a great, yeah, a great exam­ple actu­al­ly because I think it does point to the fact that we learn in dif­fer­ent ways and the way in which we are going to pro­mote growth is not going to be the same for every indi­vid­ual. And so per­tains very direct­ly to man­agers because I think our ten­den­cy is to apply the way in which we learn to those that we lead. And so we’re going to approach it in a cer­tain way with­out maybe even rec­og­niz­ing the fact that, well, we could be lim­it­ing some­body’s growth in the way that we’re going about try­ing to help them learn. So it actu­al­ly ties in. So I’m going to go out a lit­tle bit out of order because there’s a cou­ple the­o­ries that they -

Jor­dan (12:02):

Nobody lis­ten­ing has the arti­cle in front of ​‘em any­way, so

Jason (12:05):

Or fal­lac­i­es -

Jor­dan (12:06):

You make up what­ev­er order you want.

Jason (12:06):

So this is num­ber two in the arti­cle if you’re read­ing it, which we’ll share in the show notes. So fal­la­cy num­ber two, they refer to as the the­o­ry of learn­ing. And the fal­la­cy is that the process of learn­ing is fill­ing up an emp­ty ves­sel. And so what they’re say­ing is that the kind of incor­rect think­ing is that peo­ple are just emp­ty vessels.

Jor­dan (12:27):

There’s just noth­ing there at all.

Jason (12:28):

Pour­ing this new knowl­edge into them. And what they say is learn­ing is actu­al­ly less a func­tion of adding some­thing that isn’t there than it is of rec­og­niz­ing, rein­forc­ing, and refin­ing what already is. So think­ing of it more as buds on a branch. The branch exists, there’s buds form­ing. We want to stim­u­late growth along that branch in a bunch of dif­fer­ent ways. And that’s actu­al­ly true when it comes to how our brains work. So in our brains, there’s bun­dles of neu­rons in our brain with synaps­es that already exist. And what neu­ro­sci­en­tists have found is that it’s eas­i­er to devel­op new neur­al con­nec­tions where the bun­dles of neu­rons are already most dense­ly con­nect­ed. Inter­est­ing. And so as a result, what it means is when you find those areas of strengths that peo­ple already have, your brain can lit­er­al­ly form con­nec­tions faster and more eas­i­ly than in areas that it has few­er or weak­er neur­al connections.

Jor­dan (13:25):

Inter­est­ing. Yeah. Yeah, that makes per­fect sense. The image that came to my mind was cer­tain types of exer­cise. If you were, you had exer­cise your legs real­ly, real­ly well and your core real­ly, real­ly well, but you’ve nev­er done a box jump in your life, but you’ve done so many squats and so many sit ups and so many things to exer­cise the core and the legs. And I go, okay, we’re going to put those two things togeth­er and we’re going to jump on top of this 42 inch box or whatever.

Jason (13:59):

That’d be a tall box jump.

Jor­dan (14:00):

Well, 36, let’s go with 36.

Jason (14:02):

Also, it’s a pret­ty tall -

Jor­dan (14:03):

You’re going to nail it, but we’re talk­ing about a per­son that’s real­ly in shape with their legs in, but they’ve nev­er seen this exer­cise before. They’ve nev­er seen the com­bi­na­tion of these two things togeth­er before. But because the indi­vid­ual parts are so strong, com­bin­ing them togeth­er is so much eas­i­er as opposed to try to bring some­thing com­plete­ly new and weak and unde­vel­oped in, that’s tough.

Jason (14:26):

Right. And I think where that exam­ple is good is when I think about -

Jor­dan (14:31):

My num­bers are all wrong and 18 inch, I don’t know. I don’t do box jumps.

Jason (14:34):

If any­one Cross­Fits out there, 24 inch­es would be the pre­scrip­tion for men doing box jumps.

Jor­dan (14:42):

I try to jump as lit­tle as possible.

Jason (14:45):

Yeah. It’s bet­ter for the knees. So yeah, I mean, think what’s use­ful about that anal­o­gy is sort of the oppo­site view­point, which I think is more con­ven­tion­al in busi­ness set­tings, which is work on your weak­ness­es, right?

Jor­dan (15:03):


Jason (15:04):

It’s like, oh, I have a weak­ness, so I need to focus on that area real­ly intense­ly and improve my weak­ness­es because that’s what’s going to make me bet­ter and make me more well-round­ed. And that’s actu­al­ly just false. One, it’s hard­er. It’s going to be hard­er, lit­er­al­ly hard­er for your brain to actu­al­ly make those con­nec­tions to improve in an area that you’re weak­er and it’s far more effi­cient and far more effec­tive to focus on the areas where you’re strongest. And so what they talk about in the arti­cle is how get­ting that atten­tion to our strengths from oth­ers in par­tic­u­lar. So some­body rec­og­niz­ing areas that you are strong in and point­ing that out to you actu­al­ly cat­alyzes learn­ing. Where­as atten­tion to weak­ness­es tends to smoth­er it.

Jor­dan (15:54):

Did that fal­la­cy, that very thing of try­ing to improve weak­ness­es, focus­ing on our weak­ness­es has prob­a­bly been the biggest stum­bling block in my entire life or career. I think the major­i­ty of where my learned imposter syn­drome has come from in this role as a CEO of a com­pa­ny is from this very thing of, I’ve spent so many years focus­ing on my weak­ness­es and deter­min­ing what all those weak­ness­es are. And there are many. So I had this laun­dry list in my mind of all these things that I’m bad at, and it held me back immense­ly. And I remem­ber when, when we start­ed Fringe, we did­n’t start Fringe with a CEO. It was just, Hey, we got co-founders and we’re just doing this thing togeth­er. Right? And then a day came where we had that con­ver­sa­tion, right? And one, I can’t remem­ber who, but some­body said, I think it should be Jordan.


And I was like, me? Can I give you my list of weak­ness­es, please? And then there was agree­ment around that in the room. And I remem­ber that being a real­ly hon­or­ing moment from peo­ple want­i­ng that, but also a real­ly ter­ri­fy­ing moment of just like, me? And it’s tak­en me years to real­ize that it’s not the weak­ness­es that make me capa­ble of doing the job that I’m doing, it’s the strengths, right? Because I can be dis­or­ga­nized, I can be fuzzy on details, I can for­get peo­ple’s names right and left. I can have all these weak­ness­es. But because of a few things, the abil­i­ty to cast vision, the abil­i­ty to make deci­sions with­out an enor­mous amount of facts and analy­sis to go off of, the abil­i­ty to stand strong in the com­mit­ments that we’ve made and ral­ly the troops and recruit peo­ple and go. Those few strengths, and there’s not a whole lot of ​‘em. And you always tell me I’m too hard on myself, but there’s not a ton. But there are the right strengths for the par­tic­u­lar job, and that’s enough. And man, I mean, that just jumped off the page to me when I read it that I’m like, oh my gosh. Peo­ple are sti­fling their growth to a degree that it’s hard to even explain by focus­ing on their weaknesses.

Jason (18:25):

Well, and I think this is why the work of a great man­ag­er leader is craft­ing the role of peo­ple on your team to fit the strengths. It’s look­ing at your team and say­ing, where is every­body strong and max­i­miz­ing those strengths, right? Because try­ing to mit­i­gate the weak­ness­es is just going to be kind of a fool’s errand. And so it’d be much more effec­tive and pos­i­tive expe­ri­en­tial­ly for the peo­ple on the team to have that focus on the strengths. And so -

Jor­dan (18:58):

Yeah, and thus that third point you read ear­li­er, excel­lence looks dif­fer­ent for each indi­vid­ual. If we define excel­lence as one sin­gu­lar thing and every­one needs to go after that one sin­gu­lar def­i­n­i­tion of excel­lence, right, then, I mean, that’s a dis­as­ter, right?

Jason (19:16):


Jor­dan (19:17):

Because they’re just things that try as I might, I’m nev­er going to be able to excel at, and there are things that I can excel at that oth­ers just either would­n’t excel at or would­n’t even try. It just seems so far out­side of their skillset.

Jason (19:33):

Yeah. So I think it’s worth, I mean, I don’t think you’d be over­stat­ed here what they’re say­ing about this. So there’s anoth­er psy­chol­o­gy and busi­ness pro­fes­sor who sum­ma­rizes some of this by say­ing that the strong neg­a­tive emo­tion that’s pro­duced by crit­i­cism, so what we would con­strue as con­struc­tive feed­back, which is going to be received as crit­i­cism, because it is, right? It inhibits access to exist­ing neur­al cir­cuits and invokes cog­ni­tive, emo­tion­al and per­cep­tu­al impair­ment. So it lit­er­al­ly sti­fles that abil­i­ty to grow. But what was fun­ny is, I know you’re a sci­ence fic­tion lover as am I.

Jor­dan (20:16):

This is where I nerd out.

Jason (20:17):

es. And it remind­ed me imme­di­ate­ly when I saw that of a quote from the book or the movie now Dune, where they say, fear is the mind killer. So the full quote is, ​“I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the lit­tle death that brings total oblit­er­a­tion.” And so I think that kind of neg­a­tive crit­i­cism, what it does is, what’s it do? It sur­faces fears inside of us, and those fears are lit­tle deaths that we live through because they’re parts of our inter­nal psy­che that are just real­ly dif­fi­cult to push through.

Jor­dan (20:55):

Yeah, yeah, absolute­ly. And I think that fear is prob­a­bly a real­ly good word. Fear is actu­al­ly the thing that par­a­lyzes. The crit­i­cism is like, what’s the word I’m look­ing for? It’s like the pre­cip­i­tat­ing event that leads to the thing that par­a­lyzes peo­ple. It’s not the crit­i­cism itself, it’s the self-talk and the psy­cho­log­i­cal stress caused after the crit­i­cism that leads to the fear of, I’m not good enough, or I’m not wor­thy, or I’m not valu­able, or I can’t, what­ev­er, fill in the blank. That’s the thing that is so dam­ag­ing and so dif­fi­cult to over­come. Cause we all have fears, but I think one of the things that real­ly helps us over­come those fears is if we’re able to see where our strengths are, where our con­tri­bu­tion is, where is the place, it’s okay that I’m bad at X, Y, Z because I’m great at ABC. You know that that’s your way out of that fear in many cas­es. So I love that.

Jason (22:07):

So I think what’s inter­est­ing, and this kind of goes back to fal­la­cy num­ber one in this report that they’ve put out, but it ties into the sense that if we’re think­ing about crit­i­cism, if we’re think­ing about how we learn, the assump­tion often is, well, my crit­i­cism is in fact valid, that if I’m going to offer you some kind of con­struc­tive crit­i­cism that it’s in fact root­ed in some sort of fac­tu­al basis that’s objec­tive­ly true. Right? And what they are putting forth here is that that’s sort of a the­o­ry of the source of truth that isn’t actu­al­ly accu­rate. And so the sort of fal­la­cy that they call out here is that oth­er peo­ple are more aware than you are of your weak­ness­es. And so there­fore, what needs to hap­pen in order for crit­i­cism or feed­back to be good feed­back is that they’re expos­ing to you things that you don’t know about your­self. And what they call it is idio­syn­crat­ic rater effect. But that kind of goes back to the first thing that we talked about is that more than half of our rat­ing of some­one, of some­one else reflects our own char­ac­ter, our own char­ac­ter­is­tics, and not theirs. And so in oth­er words, the research shows that our feed­back, I mean, this is kind of sort of shock­ing to say it in this way, but feed­back is more dis­tor­tion than truth because, if we accept -

Jor­dan (23:45):

Well, you said it was more than 50%.

Jason (23:47):

If we accept the premise, the only objec­tive real­i­ty that we can real­ly ascer­tain is that of our own sense of strength and weak­ness­es and not nec­es­sar­i­ly some­body else’s, then when­ev­er we’re giv­ing some­body else some kind of feed­back, we ought like­ly to be doing it with more humil­i­ty, right? Yes. And prob­a­bly less is an entire­ly true proclamation.

Jor­dan (24:13):

Yeah. I think the only part of this that I would push back on is not so much, not so much the idea that the feed­back about who you are, what your weak­ness­es are. I think that’s a real­ly great con­cept. It tracks that peo­ple are aware of the weak­ness­es, right? Unless I don’t know what the word is exact­ly, but there are cer­tain peo­ple that are so neu­rot­ic that they don’t see any weak­ness­es of them­selves. There are some rare people -

Jason (24:48):

Nar­cis­sis­tic -

Jor­dan (24:50):

But your run in the mill indi­vid­ual is going to see and be keen­ly aware of the things that they’re bad at, the thing that they’re bad at, have held them back in life. They’ve been embar­rassed. They’ve put strug­gle in their way and strug­gle in rela­tion­ships, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So you’re prob­a­bly not telling me any­thing new when you tell me about a trait that I’m like, Jor­dan, you’re so dis­or­ga­nized. Yeah. I’m like, I’ve known that since I was like sev­en. Right? Thanks for the feed­back. But when feed­back I think is use­ful is the par­tic­u­lar event of, Hey, the way you spoke to this per­son that day, you should prob­a­bly go apol­o­gize. You are too hard on them. Those indi­vid­ual mis­takes. I think that is where the peer-to-peer feed­back is use­ful. Because some­times we are maybe inten­tion­al­ly blind to our own fail­ure kind of rela­tion­al­ly and so forth. Not so much, not so much blind to our traits. Just to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the two a bit, because I think there is a use­ful­ness in going like, Hey, man, you were a jerk yes­ter­day. I don’t know if you saw that. Right?

Jason (26:04):

Yeah, that’s true. So I think what’s real­ly, to me, fas­ci­nat­ing about this is, again, some of the brain research, and there’s some oth­er stuff that I was aware of that I think was applic­a­ble here from a book that I read some time ago called The Hap­pi­ness Hypoth­e­sis. And what hap­pens is this very weird thing between our left brain and our right brain. And so neu­ro­sci­en­tists that look at this stuff have actu­al­ly fig­ured out that our left brain and our right brain inter­pret the world dif­fer­ent­ly. And that when there’s gaps between the two, that one side of our brain will fill that nar­ra­tive gap in a way that might actu­al­ly not be entire­ly accu­rate. And so I think that’s part of the rea­son that this sort of idio­syn­crat­ic rater effect comes into play, is our brain isn’t always telling us the truth in terms of our actu­al obser­va­tion. So there was a study that a psy­chol­o­gist did, and I’m going to read this cause I just think it’s so wild.

Jor­dan (27:05):

I was just read­ing it and I’m like, what in the world is this?

Jason (27:09):

It’s so wild. But I think it per­tains, I promise.

Jor­dan (27:13):

And I believe you. It’s just what was going on with this sentence?

Jason (27:15):

So there’s a psy­chol­o­gist, I can’t pro­nounce his name, so I’m not going to try to, but what they did was, in this study, they flashed dif­fer­ent pic­tures to two hemi­spheres of the brain. So the way that they did that is they would cov­er one eye and flash an image to the oth­er eye.

Jor­dan (27:31):

Because your right eye cor­re­lates with your left hemi­sphere. And vice ver­sa. I’ve heard of this.

Jason (27:35):

Exact­ly. So yeah, that’s exact­ly right. And so what hap­pened was they would flash a pic­ture of a chick­en claw to the right eye, and then -

Jor­dan (27:48):


Jason (27:49):

Total­ly ran­dom. And then they’d flash a pic­ture of a house and a car cov­ered in snow on the left.

Jor­dan (27:55):

Okay. Right.

Jason (27:57):

And so this is how it kind of relates to how your brain’s inter­pret­ing these two things. So the patient was shown an array of pic­tures, and then they were asked to point to the one that goes with quote, goes with what they had seen.

Jor­dan (28:11):

Like a match, a match­ing exer­cise, a child’s game of which of these things go togeth­er type of thing.

Jason (28:16):

Right. And so the patient would point with their right hand to the pic­ture of the chick­en that went with -

Jor­dan (28:23):

Which was the side that was shown to the right eye.

Jason (28:26):

To the left or to the right eye.

Jor­dan (28:30):

Which was the left -

Jason (28:31):

Which your left hemi­sphere processed. Okay.

Jor­dan (28:33):

Okay. Got it.

Jason (28:34):

So the right hand point­ed to the pic­ture of the chick­en, which went with the chick­en claw that the left hemi­sphere had seen with the right eye.

Jor­dan (28:41):

Got it. Okay.

Jason (28:43):

But the left hand point­ed to a pic­ture of a shov­el, which went with the snow scene pre­sent­ed to the right hemi­sphere. But when the patient was asked to explain -

Jor­dan (28:56):

Because you’re think­ing snow:shovel, chicken:chicken claw.

Jason (29:00):

You would think so.

Jor­dan (29:01):

Which is logical.

Jason (29:02):

But then they asked the sub­jects of these tests to explain the rea­son that they had picked — the rea­son for their two respons­es. They did­n’t say, I have no, he did not say, I have no idea why my left hand is point­ing to a shov­el. It must be some­thing you showed my right brain. Instead, the left hemi­sphere made up a plau­si­ble sto­ry where the patient said, with­out any hes­i­ta­tion, oh, that’s easy. The chick­en claw goes with the chick­en, and you need a shov­el to clean out the chick­en shed.

Jor­dan (29:36):

What chick­en shed?

Jason (29:39):

Exact­ly. So that hemi­sphere of the brain did­n’t even reg­is­ter, like house snow shov­el. Wow. It was con­nect­ing the dots to the chick­en and assum­ing, oh, you need the shov­el to scoop out all the chick­en poop in the chick­en shed.

Jor­dan (29:55):

It’s relat­ed to the chick­en and the — right, wow.

Jason (29:59):

The way that these stud­ies, it was very instan­ta­neous flash­es. So the way that they did it, I mean, it’s real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing. There’s a lot more infor­ma­tion on that par­tic­u­lar study that they did in the book. But what’s real­ly shock­ing about it is the fact that your brain, the one hemi­sphere of your brain, is lit­er­al­ly going to make up a sto­ry for some­thing that it sees that does­n’t make sense to it. And so the ways in which we con­nect the dots, then, I think that’s where humil­i­ty comes into play, is acknowl­edg­ing the fact that the way that I might be see­ing the situation


Might not be accu­rate. So to come into a sit­u­a­tion where I’m going to give you feed­back and I’m a hun­dred per­cent con­fi­dent that I’m right in the feed­back that I’m giv­ing you is prob­a­bly inac­cu­rate. And so a bet­ter approach would be com­ing into it think­ing, Hey, I’m see­ing some­thing here. I don’t know if it’s right. Maybe I have a more hum­ble atti­tude in my approach to it, because it’s less, I uni­ver­sal­ly know some­thing to be true about you that you don’t see inter­est­ing. It’s actu­al­ly acknowl­edg­ing my brain. I see some­thing, I don’t know if I’m con­nect­ing the dots here the right way.

Jor­dan (31:17):

Man. I feel like I have two exam­ples that come to mind. One is, I think about a child when they see, every night, my son asked me to close his clos­et door because his clos­et door because the clos­et is dark­er than the room, even though there’s bare­ly any light in the room, he wants me to close the clos­et door. And I think as an adult, I’m just like, well, the clos­et’s dark because there’s less oppor­tu­ni­ty for light to seep into it because there’s a small crack in the door. It’s why it’s dark. But to him, it’s dark because it’s an evil place full of mon­sters. He cre­ates a sto­ry for the thing that he does­n’t under­stand, or under the bed or what­ev­er. That’s chil­dren’s imag­i­na­tions, the adults’ imag­i­na­tions. We cre­ate sto­ries for what we don’t under­stand. The place where I cre­ate sto­ries is I’ll observe some­thing about, just like you’re say­ing, observe some­thing about some­one, see a pat­tern in some­one’s behav­ior, in some­one’s life, and what they do, what they say, how they act, how they walk, how the face they make.


And I’ll make up a sto­ry in my head as to why that exists. And then I’ll make the mis­take occa­sion­al­ly of going to that per­son and say­ing, are you like this because of ABC, this sto­ry that I made up? Some­times you get lucky and they’re like, wow, that was pret­ty good. But oth­er times it’s like, no, and they’re offend­ed. Cause why don’t you just ask me about it instead of just mak­ing up this nar­ra­tive out of nowhere. That’s a fas­ci­nat­ing idea that if we don’t under­stand some­thing, we don’t just chalk it up to like, well, I just need more infor­ma­tion. I don’t under­stand. We will cre­ate some truth, some nar­ra­tive, because we need the clo­sure of this is what it is.

Jason (33:09):

And I mean it, that’s not unknown or uncom­mon and kind of neu­ro­science either. It’s just not some­thing I think that’s com­mon­ly known. I mean, I did­n’t know it until I read this book first, and then this arti­cle obvi­ous­ly brought some of this out, but our brain uses heuris­tics all the time, which are essen­tial­ly short­cuts. And so we cat­e­go­rize things like our brain with­out us know­ing, cat­e­go­rizes things in ways that allows us to make short­cuts so that we can inter­pret the world more quick­ly. It’s like, oh, you’re a per­son like, oh, this, that’s a wall. Well, is it a wall? I don’t know. It’s bricks and there’s paint on it, and you know, could decon­struct it to a lev­el that, but my brain instan­ta­neous­ly just rec­og­nizes it as a wall. It’s a heuris­tic. And so instead of tak­ing in all the infor­ma­tion that you could pos­si­bly take in -

Jor­dan (33:59):

Which would be -

Jason (34:00):

Right, which is infi­nite, it’s an infinite

Jor­dan (34:02):

Like what a trip is.

Jason (34:04):

Yeah, exact­ly. Right. So because you can’t take in this infi­nite, infi­nite amount of infor­ma­tion, your brain auto­mat­i­cal­ly cat­e­go­rizes things and makes short­cuts. And so as a result, your cat­e­gories and short­cuts aren’t always as accu­rate as they might need to be. And I think that’s what per­tains here is when we’re mak­ing judge­ments around feed­back and what’s true -

Jor­dan (34:28):

Based on short­cuts, right?

Jason (34:29):

Yeah. Inevitably, we’re cat­e­go­riz­ing some­thing, our brain’s tak­ing a short­cut, not pur­pose­ful­ly or mali­cious­ly, but we just have to under­stand that it may not be accu­rate in the way that we think it’s accu­rate as a com­plete and uni­ver­sal source of truth.

Jor­dan (34:45):

Thus, the feed­back we give is most­ly unhelp­ful. Cor­rect. Right. Because it’s not com­ing from a place of, for lack of a bet­ter word, research­ing a per­son and ask­ing them ques­tions and real­ly under­stand­ing the depths of what’s going on. It’s com­ing from a place of pat­tern recog­ni­tion of, well, I knew a per­son that act­ed sim­i­lar­ly years ago.

Jason (35:09):

That’s how we do it.

Jor­dan (35:10):

They’re rob­a­bly exact­ly like them, so there­fore, here’s the val­ue judg­ment that I’m going to make.

Jason (35:16):

I mean, it’s fun­ny now that I’m think­ing about it because what’s most pow­er­ful or some­body else telling you some­thing about yourself.

Jor­dan (35:24):

Self dis­cov­ery hands down.

Jason (35:25):

I mean, that’s exact­ly, yeah. I think what we’re talk­ing about here is if you can help peo­ple ver­sus say­ing like, Hey, I know some­thing about you that you don’t know about your­self. Yeah, obvi­ous­ly. So I’m going to bestow upon you this truth that I under­stand that you clear­ly don’t under­stand, ver­sus, Hey, I’m going to ask some ques­tions. Maybe I have an insight, maybe not. I don’t know. But if I approach it in a way that helps you maybe draw out of your­self that self-dis­cov­ery, it’s more valuable.

Jor­dan (35:55):

Yeah. Yeah. Absolute­ly. I think that’s why sto­ries are so pow­er­ful. When you want to get your point across as some­body, or you want to help them dis­cov­er some­thing about them­selves instead of just direct­ly say­ing, Hey, I noticed this about you. What’s up with that? Going, you know, I was in a sit­u­a­tion recent­ly where I was faced with this chal­lenge, and here’s how I respond­ed, and here’s what I learned from it. And you just sort of walk away and let that sto­ry linger. I think peo­ple can con­nect to the, oh, right, okay. Yeah. What they learned is maybe sim­i­lar to what I need to learn, and I think it’s more use­ful. No, there’s noth­ing that’s going to elic­it that fight or flight sit­u­a­tion about just telling your own sto­ry to, giv­en your own expe­ri­ences to some­body that real­ly, I think, helps them learn. Which again, goes back to the con­cept we talk about all the time of inti­ma­cy, right? Yes. You got to get inti­mate with peo­ple. You got to share a lit­tle bit about your­self and a lit­tle bit about your life, or you real­ly can’t help them. But I think that’s the only kind of feed­back that is real­ly a safe space to help peo­ple actu­al­ly grow, is just to kind of hear what you’ve been through and learn from your mistakes.


But that takes some vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to do that. Well, this is good. I like this top­ic. I think it’s a fan­tas­tic paper. It’s so many, it’s inter­est­ing. There’s so many things that we just blind­ly accept. It’s just like, yep. Feed­back? A hun­dred per­cent a good thing, no ques­tions asked. We should do that. We should do it more. We should do it as often as we can. And then to your point that you brought up ear­li­er, when you ask on that oth­er pod­cast, when you ask peo­ple what kind of feed­back they want, I want direct. I want straight up. Straight up, no chas­er. You got no ice, noth­ing. Just give it to me. You know what I mean? Because we want to sound tough. We want to sound like we could take it. I could take that feed­back. What do you got? Lay it on me, and I’ll just force myself to get bet­ter. What­ev­er it is that you say, and that’s unre­al­is­tic and the wrong way to approach it. But yeah, great top­ic. I think maybe we’ll return to this.

Jason (38:14):

Yeah, we will. There’s still some more to unpack.

Jor­dan (38:16):

At some point. It’s fun­ny because I’m just going to have to take an L here because I, I’m in this arti­cle here, and I total­ly for­got what the word of the day was as a result of look­ing through this.

Jason (38:29):

I got you off the show notes.

Jor­dan (38:31):

So I’m just like, I’m not on the show notes. I don’t know what the word is. Oh, man. Man, that’s right. What was it? Do you remem­ber? What’s the word? Rar­efied. Oh, that would’ve been easy, man. That would’ve been an easy bust­ed out at, were in rar­efied air. Yes. I mean, there’s so many easy ways to incor­po­rate that. Ah, shoot. Oh, well, I’ll take an Ll. That’s a win for you, Jason. Yeah. All right. Well, Jason, tell us about the word of the day next week. Hope­ful­ly I won’t dis­ap­point our lis­ten­ers again.


All right. I feel like this one ough­ta be like a layup. All right. Cordial.


Oh, okay. All right. If I miss that, I’m, I’m fir­ing myself. Just from the pod­cast, not this job. Okay. The pod­cast is over. Then the pod­cast is over, every­body. If I miss cor­dial next week, that’s a lot of pres­sure. Well, thank you every­body for lis­ten­ing and kind of tun­ing in around this idea of feed­back and the feed­back fal­la­cy. Thanks for lis­ten­ing to Episode 16 of How Peo­ple Work.

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