We swim in an ocean of feedback. Each year in the United States alone, every schoolchild will be handed back as many as 300 assignments, papers, and tests. Millions of kids will be assessed as they try out for a team or audition to be cast in a school play. Almost 2 million teenagers will receive SAT scores and face college verdicts thick and thin. At least 40 million people will be sizing up one another for love online, where 71 percent of them believe they can judge love at first sight. And now that we know each other . . .

250,000 weddings will be called off, and 877,000 spouses will file for divorce.1 More feedback awaits at work. Twelve million people will lose a job and countless others will worry that they may be next. More than 500,000 entrepreneurs will open their doors for the first time, and almost 600,000 will shut theirs for the last. Thousands of other businesses will struggle to get by as debates proliferate in the boardroom and the back hall about why they are struggling. Feedback flies. Did we mention performance reviews?

Estimates suggest that between 50 and 90 percent of employees will receive performance reviews this year, upon which our raises, bonuses, promotions—and often our self-esteem—ride. Across the globe, 825 million work hours—a cumulative 94,000 years—are spent each year preparing for and engaging in annual reviews. Afterward we all certainly feel a thousand years older, but are we any wiser?

Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, Penguin Publishing Group.

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