The Tricky Art of Honesty

I recently read an awesome blog post called “How To Give Honest (But Friendly) Feedback” on a site called The Soulful Contrarian. I found this post to be really helpful because, unfortunately, I have a hard time delivering honest advice. I get so afraid to hurt the person’s feelings that I just don’t say anything even though I know I should. Then when they keep doing the thing I know they shouldn’t, I get frustrated and annoyed. I still don’t say anything. Sometimes it’ll get to the point where I just blurt out my true, honest opinion, but it would have been a million times more tactful if i just delivered the message in a carefully worded way a few months earlier. This is not a good method. I know. I’m definitely working on it, but it’s hard to tell someone something that they may not love to hear! But it’s also really important, especially as you get older and start to make more and more important decisions. It was one thing in middle school if your friend didn’t tell you that your cotton candy perfume made everyone around you nauseous. It’s another thing if your friend doesn’t tell you that your live-in boyfriend is still holding on to feelings for his ex. See what I mean? This post helps you sort through exactly how and when you should deliver the cold, hard truth to someone you care about, and it’s really helpful especially if you find truth-delivering to be difficult and uncomfortable like I do.

The post recommends questioning your own motives before you unleash the truth all over the unsuspecting person. I agree with this. If saying something would truly benefit and aid this person, then it’s probably a good call to speak your mind. But, as the post points out, if your comments wouldn’t truly benefit the person and are not really that helpful, maybe the truth is not necessary at that moment.

The post points out that the phrases “No offense” and “Don’t take this personally” are probably the worst things you can say. Even if what you’re about to say is actually really helpful and not at all offensive, it prepares people to be hurt and they may be less receptive to your advice. Also, we’re not 15. If you’re going to offer advice, just say it!

Also consider whether getting involved is even a good idea. Is offering advice/opinions going to help the person out or just frustrate him/her? It may be best to say, “If you ever want to bounce ideas off of me or talk about it, I’d be glad to help” but then leave it at that. Sometimes advice is not helpful when it’s unsolicited.

The post also emphasizes the importance of being empathetic and kind but realizing that sometimes, no matter how carefully you word your advice or opinion, your advice may be unwanted.  I’m finding this out the hard way, unfortunately. My friend has been struggling to find a job. All I want is for her to find a great position that she loves. Every day I text and e-mail her with new ideas and links to articles about job hunting. I thought I was being Super Helpful Friend, but I realized today that I think I’m just annoying her. I discovered this when she responded to one of my “Have you thought about this company!?” texts in a really short, unusual way.

“WTF?” I thought to myself as I stared at her response for a few seconds. “All I’m doing is trying to help! Why is she talking to me this way!?” Then I realized: Being jobless is crappy. Being jobless around the holidays is really crappy. She spends all day job hunting, I’m sure she’s thought of the various techniques I’m suggesting. Unless I have some ground-breaking idea, maybe I’ll hold off on the suggestions. I’m sure her parents and siblings and extended family and everyone who knows/sees her are doing enough “Hey have you thought of this!?” on my behalf. I was coming from a good place with my advice, but it definitely wasn’t the right time to be dishing it out. This is important to keep in mind when you’re considering whether or not to give someone your opinion.

Do you have a hard time giving advice? How do you get past that “Oh god, they’re going to freak out at me” and just do it? When you’re in a tough situation do you appreciate advice or do you only want it when you ask for it?

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