Positive Feedback Vs. Negativity

What gets you going? Positive feedback or the nay sayers? Are you the type that gets serious motivation to do something just because someone says you can’t? Or do you get going when you get some positive recognition?

I am the type that gets a real charge out of any positive feedback. It gets me going. Makes me work even harder at whatever it is that I’m doing. Gives me a sense of power – that I can do whatever it is that I’m working on.


Negativity works in just the opposite way for me. It sucks any motivation that might be there right out of me. Makes me just want to escape the situation. It makes me just want to throw it all to the wind and give up on it.

One of the clearest memories for me of the difference between these two approaches to motivating people is the differences between my basketball coaches in high school. I didn’t play much at all, I rode the pine for most of both seasons. I gave it all up in my junior year when the varsity coach wanted me to pay for my uniform – which I never wore because I was the guy stuck with camera duty up in the stands during each game. So I gave it up and started working. Since then I’ve been addicted to a paycheck and haven’t ever looked back.

The difference between my freshman and sophomore coaches became very apparent when the team was in trouble during a game. Our freshman coach would pull us into a tight huddle, either during a time out or maybe at halftime. He would let us know what was going wrong, then he would tell us that he knew we could do it – no matter what the obstacles, we could find a way to come back and win. He had such inspiring confidence in us. It got the team just absolutely juiced up. The guys would go out and battle back. We didn’t always win, but the efforts put forth were just simply impressive. And the coach was always proud of us. No matter win or lose. He would pull the positive out and focus on the good that happened.

The sophomore coach was just the opposite. In those same type of games, where the team was really having trouble, this coach would pull us together and tell us how utterly disappointed he was in us. Telling us that that he was just going to give up, and that he guessed that we don’t have what it would take to get out of that tough spot. The effects of these talks were absolutely devastating. The team just fell apart, totally. It was a very tough transition for all of us. And maybe that was the thing – that it was totally opposite of what we had been exposed to with our freshman coach.

To watch the differences that the two approaches had on the team was very clear to me, even as a young high school kid.

I find that these approaches have similar effects on me in different aspects of my life. Be it at work, or in my diabetes management, or whatever.

I was diagnosed at the age of 5. After some changes in the early years, I ended up seeing the same endo for many, many years. We’re talking at least 15 years. He was a Pediatric Endocrinologist. I can remember being 20 years old, walking into the waiting room and having to look for the “big” chairs. Maneuvering around those tables with the painted metal rods, bending every which way, lined with wooden beads of all sorts of colors that you would push up and along the rods. Flipping through the Highlights magazines and other kids reading materials. Feeling strange about driving myself to the appointment and coming into the “kids section”.

But this doctor and I had a TON of history. He knew me, and I knew him. He knew that I did not respond well to the scare tactics that are so often used with diabetic patients. Rather, he encouraged me, with friendly conversation and positive feedback about good changes that were being made. Challenging me to rise up to that next level of control, and feeding me information on things I might try using to get to that level. With him I was able to achieve my lowest A1C result ever.

I finally had to leave his office due to insurance changes – otherwise I swear I’d still be going to see him. They would have had to literally throw me out of the office. I am still trying to recover from the devastation that I felt having to start all over with a new endo. I have yet to find one that really does the trick for me.

But where does that positive feedback or negativity come from when you don’t have that special connection with someone in your care team? I’m not sure about you, but I have tons of negativity rolling around my brain – much of it coming from myself (worries about not doing good enough, etc.), more of it coming from all the bad stories that people have about “that guy they know who lost his leg, went blind and is on dialysis”, and plenty of it coming from the docs that tell me my numbers are not where they need to be.

I do get a lot of positive feedback from my friends and family, which is great – and I rely on it heavily. Can there ever be too much positive feedback though? I don’t think so.

The d-blogging community is, for the most part, very empowering for me. Many of the posts I read and comments to those posts and my posts are very positive. I personally find that very helpful. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Diabetes is a very isolating thing to deal with, and the way we all pull together is very touching for me.

I appreciate each and every one of you – and thank you all for everything you do. Whether that is sharing your own stories on your blogs, or taking the time to drop a comment here or on other blogs, or even just simply reading. It makes a difference.

Where do you get the motivation to keep going? The drive to keep doing all the things you know you must, but seem like such a pain? The resolve to move on through the obstacles and frustrations you face?

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Scott K. Johnson

Patient voice, speaker, writer, advocate, and Senior Community Manager at Blue Circle Health. Living life with diabetes and telling my story. All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent my employer’s position. Read more…

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