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Science Proved That People Who Love To Write Are Smarter

Science Proved That People Who Love To Write Are Smarter

Everyone should write—not just professional writers.

You might say it’s easy for me to say that because I’m a writer. A singer can just as easily say, “Well, I believe that everyone should learn to sing.” But, out of all the creative means of expressions available to human beings, none intrinsically champions critical thinking, enhances creativity and improves clarity of thought quite like writing. Writing makes us smarter.

Here are some reasons (backed by science) why that is so:

1. Writing helps us untangle the messiness in our minds and allows for clearer thinking.

This is perhaps one of the most beautiful things about writing. In her book, Why We Write, curator Meredith Maran interviewed writers on why they write. Nearly all of them gave self-serving reasons, but there was a delightful, recurring motive of why people write: Writing provides a pocket of time in the present moment to reflect, digest and think deeply.

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Joan Didion, author of Play It as It Lays said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”

Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City explained, “I write to explain myself to myself. It’s a way of processing my disasters, sorting out the messiness of life to lend symmetry and meaning to it.”

It’s not uncommon for one to think they have totally grasped a concept until they write it down and realize there are aspects of the concept they hadn’t quite thought about.

Writing, then, is a way to organize our thoughts. It allows us to reflect and helps us gain new insights and achieve new perspectives. You think more deeply when you write, and that helps you see things more clearly.

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2. Writing helps us absorb information better and learn significantly more.

Not only do you see things more clearly when you write, you also absorb information better and learn significantly more when you write down information given to you. That explains why students and attendees at conferences and meetings who take notes of lectures or speeches learn more than those who just listen to lectures and don’t write anything down.

Interestingly, according to a study published by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer from Princeton University and University of California respectively, students who take notes on paper learn significantly more than their peers who take notes on a laptop.

The researchers found that laptop users generally type almost everything they hear without devoting much thought to what they are writing. Basically, they are not processing the meaning of what they are taking notes on; rather they are mindlessly transcribing. Transcribing doesn’t require much cognitive activity.

Those who take notes by hand, however, obviously cannot write down every single word the speaker or professor speaks. So they have to listen more attentively, summarize the lesson, list only the key points and, consequently, learn significantly more. Your brain is fully engaged in the process of comprehension when you write by hand, which means you remember the information delivered to you better.

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Yes, we live in digital age and I bet you can’t imagine not using your laptop for work or studying, but you shouldn’t totally neglect writing in the good old fashioned way using a pen and paper.

3. Writing helps us process negative feelings and improves our emotional intelligence.

A 1994 study conducted by Stefanie Spera, James Pennebaker and Eric Buhrfeind tasked 63 unemployed engineers with writing to see the effect writing would have on their stress levels.

The participating engineers were divided into three groups: A writing control group (wrote about their plans for the day or activities in their job search), a second control group (did no writing), and the experimental group (did “expressive writing” where they kept journals of their deepest thoughts and painful experiences).

The engineers in the experimental “expressive writing” group wrote for 20 minutes every day, describing their feelings of loss, rejection, financial stress and so on in their search for a job. Three months later, “Five subjects in the experimental group got jobs, no writing control subjects got jobs, and two non-writing control subjects got jobs,” wrote the study authors.

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Eight months later, only 24 percent of writing control subjects had accepted full-time jobs, 14 percent non-writing control subjects had accepted employment, and a whooping 53 percent of experimental subjects found full-time employment. The conclusion from the study:

“Writing about the thoughts and feelings surrounding job loss may enable terminated employees to work through negative feelings and to assimilate and attain closure on the loss, thus achieving a new perspective. Doing so may create a shift in the individual’s orientation that allows getting past the negative emotions, preventing them from resurfacing and perhaps sabotaging the job search in, for example, a job interview.”

In other words, the researchers discovered that suppressing negative feelings is a heavy burden, and writing it out, not for publication but for oneself, is like a balm to chapped lips. Writing it out makes you emotionally intelligent and apt to deal with unpleasant situations.

Bottom line

The psychological benefits of writing (particularly using a pen and paper) are like the gradual benefits of exercising. You don’t often see the gains immediately, but the transformation is happening underneath. When writing, ideas are crystallizing; emotions are examined and questioned (not merely glossed over); and, creativity peaks as dots are connected.

And yet, like exercise, even after understanding how beneficial it would be to your life and work, many people still actively shun writing. Those who write, though, speak and think clearer and are often much smarter.

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

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