Some time ago, my son had a minor obsession. Whether at the dinner table, in the car, or out for a walk, he was constantly peppering us with, “would you rather” questions? You know the ones I mean, where you are forced to choose between two equally bizarre or unpleasant alternatives?
“Would you rather always have to say everything that is on your mind or never be able to speak again?”
“Would you rather have the hiccoughs the rest of your life or always feel like you have to sneeze but not be able to?”
“Would you rather smell like poop and not know it or know you smell like poop but others can’t smell it?”
Fast forward to today.
I was re-reading some recent research on the use of deliberate practice (DP) for improving individual clinician effectiveness. As I’ve blogged about previously, one of the four crucial components of DP is feedback. Not just any kind of mind you, but negative feedback–in particular, immediate, ongoing information regarding one’s errors and mistakes.
Put bluntly, receiving negative feedback is hard on the ego. Despite what we may say or believe, a mountain of literature documents we all possess a strong need for social approval as well as a bias toward attributing positive traits to ourselves.
The same research shows that, beyond selective recall and well-known biases associated with self-assessment, we actively work to limit information that conflicts with how we prefer to see ourselves (e.g., capable versus incompetent, perceptive versus obtuse, intuitive versus plodding, effective versus ineffective, etc.).
As a brief example of just how insidious ours efforts can be, consider an email sent out by the customer service department at a Honda dealership in Richmond, Virginia.
“As you may know,” it began, “we have a wide range of services performed here at our location and strive to do the best we can to accomodate each and everyone of our customers.” A request for feedback followed, “There may be times we can not meet the needs and we would appreciate any feedback . . . for our company.”
So far so good. The company was on the way to showing its customers that it cared. It had sent a follow-up email. It thanked its customers. Most importantly, it invited them to provide the type of feedback necessary for improving service in the future.
The correspondence then ended, telling the recipient they would soon receive a survey which, “If you enjoyed or were satisfied with your recent visit and provide a 100% score you will receive a FREE oil change.”
Amazing, eh? Thanks to my long-time colleague and friend, Arnold Woodruff, for noticing the irony in the email and passing it on to me.
For whatever reason, on reading it, one of those “would you rather” questions immediately came to my mind:
“Would you rather be approved or improved?”
No waffling now. There is no in-between. I can hear my son saying, “you have to choose!”
Why not join me and colleagues from around the world who are “choosing to improve” for our two-day intensive on deliberate practice. Together with Dr. Tony Rousmaniere–the author of the new book Deliberate Practice for Psychotherapists—you’ll learn the latest, evidence-based strategies for improving your effectiveness. Register today, by clicking here, or on the image below.
Until next time,
Scott D. Miller, Ph.D.
International Center for Clinical Effectiveness