Thoughtfully Honest or Mindlessly Blunt?

We all have friends and relatives who wear ‘I am blunt’ as a badge of honor. They seldom call themselves a liar, selfish or greedy person in public introductions but they are fine calling themselves a blunt person; as if they have accepted that it’s part of their personality; as if it’s acceptable in our society to be blunt.

On the other hand, my friends who see their blunt nature as a weakness tell me how helpless they feel in their professional and personal lives. They’ve shared with me how they find themselves buried under guilt because of the pain they have caused to themselves and to others with their blunt nature. They are unable to point at the source of their pain but they suffer every day.

Why they can’t point to the source of their pain? Because their blunt nature is deep seeded in their urge, to be honest. Honesty – which is seen in our society as one of the un-challenged heroic traits. They think of their bluntness as their honesty; nothing less, nothing more.

We speak bluntly when we’re in a hurry to judge; the cost of which is bigger than we can imagine. 

Marriages crumble, employees lose their job, egos get shattered, people get murdered, and there are others who go into irrecoverable depression, just because someone couldn’t keep his or her mouth shut or didn’t make an effort to use the right words, at the right time – to tell his / her honest truth.

People who call themselves blunt are unable to distinguish between honesty, bluntness, and offense. They keep crossing lines and before they know – people start looking at them as a conflictive personality. They can’t stop being “honest” (at least in their own eyes) and thus their miseries continue to pile-up. They start feeling ignored and it only makes them blunter. They feel the people around them don’t deserve to be treated well (because few people treat them well).

Wherever they go, conflicts follow.  They live with one big relief though – at least they are being honest.  

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against honesty. Of course not. The last thing you want is to be a liar or develop a reputation of a liar. Being dishonest would be the worst thing.

What I am against though is when people take shortcuts, act sloppy in the name of honesty and hurt others and even themselves. They run into troubles, miss opportunities and suffer because of their mindless pursuit of honesty. They act honestly not because they are honest, but because it’s an easier option for taking.

When someone says they are being blunt, often what they are seeking is an approval for being sloppy. They are about to take the easier option to judge the other person without checking facts or listening to other person’s story and yet come out as a hero. 

It’s easier to call someone fat & ugly than to talk to them about their medical or mental condition. It’s easier to tell your wife that your friend’s wife is a better cook than to first ask how was her day? What has lead to that food that’s on your table?

It’s easier to say the first word that strikes your brain than to take few seconds to think of the right words before saying it. 

If you’re blunt, you will frequently fail to get the desired outcome. You will offend more people with your honest brain farts and get you into avoidable conflicts. Being blunt is also a sure way to get less done. Demonstrating your management skills to outshine your boss (because you honestly think that you’re better than him, even if you really are) will only make him insecure and thus will only delay your promotion.

People also use honesty for their own selfish reasons. Just because they’ve made a mistake and can’t live with the burden of it, they decide to tell it to others using harsh words, so that they can feel better about themselves.

If it’s our duty, to be honest with others, it’s also our duty to be kind & compassionate to them. Honesty doesn’t give us a license to hurt them.

Our honest truth is a reality for someone and he or she is living it – a battle you know nothing about. And if we want to practice radical honesty, we must first practice it with ourselves. The biggest lies are often the ones that we tell ourselves, not to others. When we’re honest with ourselves, we know about our shortcomings, our own weaknesses, our own incompetencies as a person. We’re able to empathize with others more and hence we are more motivated to be diligent with our words.

Indeed we must say the truth even if it’s the most brutal and painful one. Often life doesn’t give us any other choice but, to be brutally honest. But what about the times when we do have a choice. Moments, when we can save someone from a heartbreak or pointless humiliation by keeping a harmless secret, limiting the information or using the right words to express the truth. The times we can be thoughtfully honest but not mindlessly blunt.

Artist: Sophie Blackall