It’s Hard Giving Feedback

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.

Choosing to Subscribe & Other Decisions

I get emails that I signed up for years and years ago. Recently I’ve started to clear the clutter when those messages come.

Some of the messages I still read. Some I appreciate because they remind me of things I’ve forgotten. They bring back before me what used to be important.

The thing is I don’t want all the emails I get. I want to make a different choice. I want to subscribe to some things and unsubscribe to other things.

In email, it’s simple. I click one button and see a pop-up. Maybe there’s an optional survey about why I’ve changed. Maybe not.

It’s harder in conversation. Or in relationships. Or in practice. But the choice is the same.

There are things we choose and things we don’t. Hopefully we have the courage to unsubscribe at the right time.

Given the History of Misunderstandings

Friday I read an article about the President-elect’s conversations with world leaders and how they were, consistent with his earlier manner, clear departures from the way diplomatic leaders and ambassadors think he should participate in such conversations.

Mark Landler’s NYT article quoted a former Pakistani ambassador who said that in his country history and details matter most. He said that his country and our country has between them many misread signals. I thought: given the “history of misunderstandings” some conversations need more than a leader’s reactivity.

I don’t know that the President-elect’s conversation was reactive. But I do know that some conversations require patience and consideration. In other words, a considered approach is a more thorough one given the history between your conversation partners. Wisdom seems to be in knowing which conversations require us to dispense with history and tradition and which require pronounced appreciation for them.

In which relationships do I need to pay attention to what’s happened before? I think most relationships call for that. I can’t think of any situation where knowing and respecting what happened before you arrived at the next seminal isn’t important. Then, you choose according to your wisdom.