One thing I try and do a lot more of these days, with some success, is try really hard about being explicit about my feelings and where I’m at, especially if I start to get that sour feeling that my tone is not lined up with my actual feelings.

A weird thing about positional power is you don’t realize that your own excitement, intensity, bad mood, and feelings in general can start people down a path and feeling a certain way you don’t want. Sometimes, because we’re human, our feelings leak into how we communicate, but those feelings are not always about what we’re talking about or who we’re talking to. But that’s obviously how anyone you’re talking with will see them.

So after I critique a piece of writing, I might say, “By the way, to be clear, this is already much better and much closer to what it needs to be. My critique is detailed and specific and strong because it’s so much closer to what we need.” Or I might say, “Sorry, I’m just having a morning and I wanted to make sure I really understood that feedback so I knew if this was going to throw my day for a tailspin.” Or I might try and talk out loud about why I’m asking the questions like, “I’m just trying to figure out if this is specific to this customer, to a particular data situation, or a general thing.”

I don’t know if it helps, but it can be really hard for me to modulate my tone or how people read the way I write or communicate and much easier for me to say out loud “here’s what’s going on in my head right now”.

Because there are going to be times where I am not at my best and don’t have my best faculties, I try and really do my best when I can. I hope that if I can show the thoughtfulness I wish I always had when I’m at my best, I will be afforded some grace when I fall short.