The Tension of the And

The Tension of the And

by elainesuess

In November, I presented to a group of 300 leaders – teaching them about Positivity, why it matters in a business setting, and about the Appreciative approach to change.

There was a videographer there named Steve, and during our first break, he came up to me and asked if he could give me some feedback. I said “yes,” and braced myself. He’s videotaping me. What did I expect? Did I need to fix my collar? Did we need to move the mic? Was I speaking or moving too quickly? I was prepared to make any changes necessary. 

Then Steve said something very complimentary. 

I waited, and looked at him, but that was all. 

Wow, I thought. That’s all. There’s no more feedback. That’s all he wanted to tell me.

It was a bit shocking.

The Tension of the And

In most cases with feedback, there is the beauty and tension of the “and.”
Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 3.18.16 PMThere are so many ways we can build upon/amplify our great strengths “and” we learn that there are opportunities to be more effective, even self concordant in our behaviors and goals.
Research shows however, that when we get positive and not so positive feedback, we focus almost solely on the critical input, rarely on amplifying the strengths. When we only take in half of this equation, we can lose a little bit of hope or confidence. 
Rick Snyder, at the forefront of positive psychology, wrote about something called “Hope Theory” based on research. He says that in order for us to have hope, we need two things:  
1. Willpower – the desire to do it, whatever “it” is, “I want to overcome these obstacles, communicate better,  improve etc.,”  
2. Waypower – taking action, or knowing how I’m going to do what I want to do 
It’s the “way power” that makes the equation work, the unpacking of the “and.”  It’s finding the happy medium of focus between what falls on either side of the “and,” and doing something with it.

Next time you offer feedback to someone, you might just want to tell them what they’re doing well. We usually don’t spend enough time doing that.

Next time you receive feedback with an “and” in it, be intentional in looking at the truth on either side of the and. Amplify your strengths, AND work on the opportunities to be the “best you” you can be.



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