I have a smart mouth. At least that’s what my mother always told me. I think she’s right. She’s good at telling the truth. But I’ve also worked very hard not to use that smart mouth unless I have to, unless I’m hungry, or unless I’m impatient with the listener.
I noticed two things the other day. First, it’s hard to give feedback when the feedback stings. Second, it’s hard to soften words that are inherently sharp.
I was giving feedback the other day to someone, and I didn’t use my smart mouth. I used the best approach I could. I wanted good for this person, a student of mine. And it was still hard to tell the truth. I’ve been teaching graduate students for eight years and giving critical feedback is still a task.
So the next time you hear hard feedback, take a breath as you take in the words. It may be as hard to say as it is to hear.