Dr. William Glasser was an outspoken advocate of self-evaluation, believing it was the only way to really attain both quality outcomes AND good relationships. He wasn’t willing to settle for just one or the other. Neither was Dr. Edward Deming, who was deeply committed to quality and driving fear out of the workplace. And a critical factor in removing fear is changing the mindset and approach to being evaluated.

Dr. Glasser believed self-evaluation was the key but despite his belief, it remains a challenging concept to implement and encourage. In society there is significant ambivalence about the appropriateness of self-evaluation and its effectiveness. Parents, teachers, managers, even counsellors can struggle with valuing a person’s self-evaluation, especially when it’s contrary to their perspective. In addition there is significant skill required to help someone effectively self-evaluate, versus just telling a person how they are doing.

Being an “internal control system” as described by Dr. Glasser, we understand we are designed to evaluate. This is pretty easy to understand when I compare “what I want” with “what I currently have”. But the evaluation of “what I am doing” and how well my behavior is working is often a more complex evaluation. The effectiveness of this evaluation rests on the “quality” of the information I have. It hinges on what I am aware of or know – in other words the information in my “system”. So what stops information from entering our system?

I’ve noticed, over the course of my life, some people seem to be better at learning from a situation than others. Some people seem more open to feedback or input. As I pondered why, I realized it was their beliefs that made the difference. A person’s beliefs about asking for or receiving feedback, often without realizing, will either support them being more open or more closed to information or feedback.

To obtain a “high quality” evaluation, one which is relevant, meaningful and going to be helpful to the person, you must have “high quality” information to base it on. This information needs to be specific, measureable, tangible in some way, and often needs to include different perspectives. We often fall short in getting the information which would allow us to change or improve because of our beliefs about asking for information, and what we do when we get new information.

Consider the list below if you are interested in discovering what you may unconsciously believe, that’s actually hampering you.

Beliefs that Promote Openness

Smart people can and do say, “I don’t know”
Life is rarely black and white, it’s important to look for grey
Asking someone for feedback is a sign of strength
People like sharing their ideas/feedback
Information doesn’t hurt, it’s what you do with it that matters
Differences in opinions and perspective are great
Chaos or confusion always precedes change
People who self-evaluate set internal standards for quality
There are many ways to view something and learn
Self-evaluation can be exciting and empowering

Beliefs that Promote Closing Down

Saying “I don’t know,” means I am incompetent
Things are black and white and grey is just a cop out
Asking for feedback means you’re uncertain and insecure
You put a person on the spot when you ask for feedback
Asking for feedback gives people a chance dump on you
Differences means one of us is wrong
Chaos and confusion are bad and should be covered up
There are no real standards in self-evaluation
If a person self-evaluates, they don’t learn anything
Self-evaluation will be painful, embarrassing or useless

Becoming a really effective self-evaluator is empowering and exciting. But we are not born knowing how to do this and we often don’t realize what is stopping us. Building on the information about beliefs that help us be open or not, this activity will help strengthen your capacity to gather important information. This activity is great for people in the Certification process or Instructor training. It can also be used in any context where students/workers want to demonstrate competence.

Using the list of beliefs that promote “openness to learning” or “closing down”, notice which beliefs you hold that close down your openness. This can be a private reflection or a group discussion if it feels appropriate. You may want to think about where you learned these beliefs and even when. Often beliefs or attitudes are learned early in life and from family members or early experiences. If it feels uncomfortable to consider changing a belief then it’s appropriate to take some time to consider what your hesitation is about.

Practicing a new behavior is the fastest way to lock it in. To practise, choose a topic/concept that you really like and feel you could teach someone else. If you are in a Practicum or training you could share one concept from Choice Theory, part of the Model of Reality Therapy or the Lead Management framework.

Working in pairs decide who will be A and who will be B

Step One – A begins by sharing the idea/concept that they have chosen
Step Two – A self-evaluates, sharing the strengths and weaknesses of how the concept was taught. B’s role is to listen attentively and with openness

Step Three – After listening B gives feedback about what they liked, learned, enjoyed or appreciated from what was shared – being as specific as possible because it significantly adds to the quality of the information

Step Four – A acknowledges the feedback and appreciates their partner for what they shared

Step Five – Practising a New Behavior – Gathering more information and possibly discovering a blind spot can be exciting if you are open to it. When B shares their thoughts or observations A doesn’t have to take them as “truth” but it is a chance to consider new information or a different perspective.

To expand the learning A chooses one of the following questions:

• What would you change or do differently from what I shared?
• What would you add to enhance or improve what I shared?
• What do you see could be a weakness or blind spot in what I shared?
• What questions come to your mind from what I have shared?

A thanks B for what they shared. It’s important to acknowledge the risk it takes to give really specific feedback. A can share how they feel about the new information, if they want and time permits

Step Six – Switch roles