Applaud the Fish for Swimming – The Importance of Giving Positive Feedback and Constructive Criticism

More often than not, the only time we give feedback to a service provider or organisation of any sort, is when we are criticizing the service or product provided. When we are satisfied, or even extremely happy, we tend to simply say nothing.

“Never applaud a fish for swimming.”

Often, the justification for that is that we are supposed to receive good service and quality products, and this is true. What is also true, is that all organisations, no matter the size, are operated by human beings. Sometimes we cannot see them; for example, when using an app or website, you don’t see the human being as you would when dealing with a doctor or salesperson. However, no matter how far removed from contact with you, there is a human being making whatever service or product you receive, possible.

The fact of the matter is, we all, to some extent, want to hear that we did a good job.

Theorists and scholars in different disciplines, over centuries have debated about which factors lead to high productivity and efficiency in human beings and almost all of them agree that there has to be some or other motivating factor. Many argue that in most people, that motivating factor works better when it’s a positive one, as opposed to a negative one. For example, the possibility of a promotion, as opposed to the possibility of getting fired.

I believe this to be true. I believe that people will perform better when they feel valued and appreciated. On the other hand, it can be difficult to remain motivated when the only feedback you ever receive, is negative.

“Constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an aggressive one.”

It’s important to know where you fell short because you can know where to improve. However, it’s also important to know where you have excelled so that you can know what to maintain or do more of. Growth is almost impossible without a balanced perspective of what growth means and where it is necessary.

With that said, constructive criticism is important. Constructive, being the key word. Therefore, when giving feedback, one should try to be as detailed as possible about what it is exactly, about the product or service, fell short or needs improvement. People are also more likely to be receptive of criticism, and improve based on it, if they are approached in a positive manner. Of course, this will not always be the case. Some people will reject any type of criticism and perhaps even attack the customer. However, I believe this is the minority.

I also believe that this is not only the case in the business environment but is the case in all human interactions, including personal relationships with friends, partners, families etc. I think it’s worth a shot. It only takes a few minutes to say “Well done, I was particularly impressed by…” but it goes a very long way.

As many people are about to go back to work and we question what the new “normal” will be, most companies are being forced to evolve and navigate new waters, in order to stay alive. Many will struggle initially. You can help them find their feet more quickly.

  • Ndapewoshali Ndahafa Ashipala [03 May 2020]

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Kaarina says:

    Well done Ndapewoshali..
    I was reading and reflecting on my life at the same time ..
    Thank you so much

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ndapewoshali Writes says:

      Thank you so much for reading it Kaarina. I’m glad it caused you to reflect a little. It’s always good for us to be self-aware.


  2. omungome says:

    Great piece Ndapewa!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ndapewoshali Writes says:

      Thank you!


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