As a student, English was one of my favorite subjects. I enjoyed learning about grammar and fondly remember diagramming sentences in fourth grade. Those memories came rushing back recently when a client told me, “I used a period, not a comma, and it was incredible!”
She wasn’t talking about English class, though. She was talking about a conversation she’d had with her team member at work.
Feedback That Hits the Mark
“I told him what an amazing job he’d done on the project, shared specifically what I admired about his work, and thanked him for all he’d done. And then I stopped. I didn’t add the word ‘but’ to my comments as I often do. My words hung in the air for a few seconds. I could tell he was waiting for me to discount the many positive words I’d just shared with him. He waited for the ‘but’. And I didn’t include it.”
She went on to tell me since the time she’d shared her feedback– without the ‘but’– her direct report’s overall engagement and contribution to the team had improved. She said she could clearly see how ineffective the ‘comma, but’ feedback had always been.
Is the moral of the story here that people should never be given constructive (read: negative) feedback? Of course not. We all need the type of feedback that helps us learn and grow and get better at what we do.
But we also need feedback that allows us to celebrate. Feedback that doesn’t come with a ‘but’. The type that doesn’t include a shoe dropping right on top of the positive words we’ve just been gifted.
The Benefits of Positive Feedback
Positive feedback in the workplace—the kind that ends with a period and not a comma– is known to have many benefits. It increases employee engagement, boosts performance, encourages desired behaviors, and even saves organizations money due to greater employee satisfaction and lower employee turnover.
It’s a no-brainer to share positive feedback in the workplace. But what about at home? How does the ‘period, no comma’ feedback work there?
A few examples to ponder:
- When your significant other takes care of a household task that’s typically left for you (Think: doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, calling the babysitter, organizing the receipts for the CPA) and doesn’t do it quite the same way you do, be appreciative that the task is complete. Then share that appreciation and your unending love—period, no comma– with your significant other.
- When your mother-in-law bakes your spouse his favorite cake every year for his birthday—even though you’ve told her you’re fully capable of baking it—tell her how grateful you are that she gives him this gift each year. Then think about the time and mess she saves you each year.
- When your daughter comes home from school with a B- on the science test she studied so hard for, give her the tightest hug ever and tell her how proud you are of her hard work. And when your brain tells you she should have gotten an A for all the work she put in, remind it that great effort and dedication are of greater importance than the letter grade at the top of that paper.
- When you look in the mirror and notice new wrinkles where you’ve never seen them before, celebrate those experience lines and the many memories that helped you get them.
Moving Forward Without the ‘But’
This period, no comma feedback is surprising. Many people don’t know what to do with it when they receive it. We’re so used to hearing the ‘but’. Feedback without it is almost confusing. That is, until we realize it’s much more meaningful. It’s more loving. It’s more compassionate. It’s more effective.
My client’s realization that ‘period, no comma’ feedback is the way to go has further solidified my use of it, too. I offer it to people in my professional life, my personal life, and I offer it to myself, too.
How about you? Are you ready to dump the comma, add the period, and turn someone’s life upside down in the best way possible? That’s what we call the period, no comma way of lighting up that someone’s world!