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The first couple of years out of residency, as a new attending, I made a number of trainees cry. A couple of my ER residents. An ortho intern. A medical student, a young nurse. I still feel kind of awful when I think about it. Want to know what I did to them to elicit tears?
I gave feedback directly, immediately, bluntly, and without qualifiers, as I had been receiving it from my mostly male attendings, and coached to do by a senior male educator.
I was completely shocked at the impact, and initially thought - oh maybe that person was having a bad day and it was a pile on, or maybe I hit a nerve somehow. And then I asked one of my residents why it upset her so much - feedback is so key to adult learning, after all.
I was earnestly coming at it from a team learning perspective, but in the ER with a lot going on, it’s not always possible to sit and gauge feelings before delivering timely feedback.
So anyway, the resident told me, “It’s one thing getting feedback from [senior male attending]. But I expect you to be nicer!” I guess my stepping out of a communal, supportive role, made direct feedback seem disproportionately harsh.
The resident said it somehow felt more like an personal attack, coming from me, and that she wanted me to build her up, not tear her down. Something like that.

I had to recover for a bit from that conversation.
And I’ll admit I went into serious cookie-baking and hug-giving mode for a while after that.
I was *really* into feedback, btw: wrote a couple of chapters about it, did some studies on it, recorded an online module & workshopped and lectured on feedback. But I came to understand there is "best practice" feedback and then there's the way women need to do it.
(Not that men wouldn't benefit from gentle and tactfully delivered feedback - that is also true. But I think women have less wiggle room.)
I haven't made anyone cry for a while - I've carried that early lesson with me in all realms of work, looking for ways to give feedback in an affirming way, giving lots of praise on either side of feedback (the "sandwich"), etc.
It's fine, but inefficient as hell. I'm in a few working groups where I can just say what I'm thinking & it's incredibly freeing. So I can see why women who just want to get sh*t done might not conform to expectations wrt feedback & other interpersonal interactions. / fin
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