“Give it to me straight, Coach!”, my clients insist.
I learned to tread carefully. Just because someone is asking you for something, doesn’t mean they actually want you to give it to them.
When I was 20 years old, and working at one of my first desk jobs (after standing on my feet all day, serving coffee, getting to SIT while working was paradise!), a coworker gave me an article to proofread.
Proofread it I did. I ripped it apart, underlying, circling and highlighting. I pointed out every typo, every error, every flaw in the author’s reasoning. My coworker was crushed. And I got a stern lecture from my supervisor. Something about being too blunt. Abrasive. Something about needing to be nicer. Playing well with others. [I still wonder if a male would have received a lecture in the same situation].
I was upset and confused.
She asked for feedback. I gave her my best. I spent a significant amount of time doing it too. And even looking back, I believe that article would have been significantly better if all of my suggestions were implemented.
Yet… that’s not what my coworker wanted. She wanted me to give it a quick glance, and perhaps, correct some punctuation. She wanted validation, more than she wanted feedback.
Years ago, my boyfriend’s mother shows me two framed pictures she bought at a flea market. She wants to hang them in the bathroom. She wants my input, demonstrating two potential configurations.
Like this? Or like this?
I want to scream: “Neither! Get rid of the damn pictures – they are cheap and tasteless. Lose the plastic shower curtain too, will ya?”.
But that’s not what she is looking for either.
These situations did teach me a lesson. When someone asks for feedback, I usually clarify: “What kind of feedback are you looking for?”.
“How much time do I have?”
“How much time do you have?”
There is no reason to rip someone’s essay to shreds if it is due in two hours.
I have started to pull myself back from passionate arguments. “I do not want to discuss this with you, because you are emotionally involved in the topic. And I am not. I will treat this as a cognitive exercise. As a sport. And I will win. And you will get hurt”.
And I looooooove the sport of the argument. Unfortunately, I rarely get to indulge.
When I find a worthy opponent, we have an amazing time. It’s finger-lickin’ good.
Although we do freak out the onlookers. “Come on, guys! Don’t fight!”.
We both stop and look up in amazement.
We are not fighting.
We are having A BLAST. And making quite a bit of noise in the process.
So, is there an upside to being an argumentative bitch?
Radical honesty is rare.
Tamed and developed,
Being a bitch is a special power,
Not a handicap.
Delivered in small doses
With both parties’ consent.
It tastes awful,
But it works.
I am the counterbalance.
The devil’s advocate.
Perhaps, the devil herself.