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When Is Brutal Honesty the Best Policy?

by Chris Dee 12 months ago in advice

(and When Is It Just Not Worth It)

Although most people err on the side of diplomacy when it comes to telling people things that might be hard to hear, there’s also something to be said for brutal honesty. Sometimes it’s the only way to go if you genuinely care about the other person. Other times, it’s just not worth the drama it might cause.

Knowing when to go one direction over the other can mean the difference between great relationships that stand the test of time and situations that are basically dumpster fires. Here’s are some prime examples to help you tell the difference.

When to Be Brutally Honest

Being honest with people we care about is hard, but leaving the sugar-coating altogether off of whatever needs to be said can be near impossible. When it’s really important, though, you can’t leave any room for interpretation. Always be completely honest when it comes to situations like the following.

1. When Someone’s About to Ruin Their Life

We all know what it’s like to make a horrible, life-altering decision on a whim. You often end up wishing someone had cared enough to stop you, so seize opportunities to be that person for others. If you see a friend about to drive home from the bar drunk or know someone who’s one wrong decision away from wrecking their marriage, it’s time to step in.

2. When It’s Time to Out a Backstabber

Everyone knows how horrible it feels to have someone they’re close to go behind their back and stab them in it. If you know this is happening to someone else, speak up the way you’d want them to do for you. Examples include catching a friend’s partner cheating or being privy to destructive gossip.

3. When It’s About Addiction

If you’ve ever had to watch a loved one destroy themselves one bad substance-use decision at a time, then you also know what an awful experience it is. If you think a partner, friend, or family member might be on the cusp of developing an addiction, you owe it to them to nip things in the bud by saying something.

4. When It’s About Being Satisfied in Bed

If you need something specific in bed to fully enjoy yourself, it’s to your benefit to be honest about it and let your partner know. Chances are they’ll welcome the opportunity to rock your world a little harder, so go ahead and ask them to try a different angle or let you bring your vibrator into the mix. There’s absolutely nothing to lose and a lot to gain because great sex is way too good to miss out on.

5. When Someone’s About to Embarrass Themselves

Someone having a piece of spinach stuck in their teeth or some toilet paper clinging to their shoe might not seem like something that warrants brutal honesty, but they’ll appreciate the effort. You’ll save them a countless number of embarrassing encounters that day. Again, you’d want someone to do it for you.

When It’s Just Not Worth It

Of course, there are plenty of times in life when honesty might not be the best policy. The following are some great examples to keep in mind.

1. When It Can’t Help the Situation

Brutal honesty is only helpful when expressing it might help prevent a potential disaster. If the disaster has already occurred – like a bad break-up or the loss of a job – emphasizing what a big mistake the person made won’t do anything to fix the situation. It’ll only make them feel worse about whatever happened.

2. When You’re Dealing with Someone Toxic

Chances are you’ve dealt with at least a couple of toxic individuals in your lifetime. If so, then you know there’s no way to change these people or make them see the light as to how they treat others. It’s also a huge mistake to be vulnerable around people like this, so opening up and being super-real probably isn’t the way to go.

3. When It Won’t Be Constructive

Let’s say you’re ending a friendship or breaking up with someone, and the person asks for an explanation as to why you’re doing it. If being brutally honest about your reasons will help them make their next connection more successful, go for it. If not, skip it. For example, letting them know they need to be a better listener is something you should share. If the reason is something they can’t change, though – like their height – keep it to yourself.

It’s also worth mentioning that if someone’s hounding you for personal information that’s none of their business, you don’t owe them honesty. For the most part, being honest is a good thing and a habit you should seek to cultivate. However, it’s to your benefit to learn when it might make more sense to keep information to yourself. Your relationships (and your sanity) will thank you for it.


Chris Dee

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Chris Dee

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