Being candid without reproaching people is a skill – it is subtle but somewhere along our upbringing we come to associate people with their actions and/routines as much as we allow those things to be part of our identities.
Habits can be changed, personalities can be transformed. It’s not just about believing in yourself but appreciating how the environment you allow yourself to be in, the things you read or watch, the people you interact with have an impact on you. That means when someone criticise your work or actions you can simultaneously take responsibility (knowing you can change and improve), whilst also not letting it assault your identity (seeing that your work is not actually a direct reflection of your whole self).
I think the something along our upbringing is when we try to nudge our children, peers or friends to change by giving the warning about their identity (rather than a perception of it). For example, we say to children don’t be a smoker rather than don’t take up smoking. We say people are geniuses rather than saying they have a genius (which by the way, is the original way of expressing the concept).
Seen in that light, our inability to give honest negative feedback without feeling/acting like we’re assaulting someone is the same thing as when we receive those sort of feedback. We think we’re assaulting because we feel assaulted. We think it’s being judgmental because we feel judged. Being able to do these well are not “soft skills” – they are life skills.