By David Joel Miller
Saying what you think can get you liked or it can get you hated.
Are you one of those people who find they can’t help saying what they think? This can be a blessing or a curse. If you have this trait and it has gotten you in trouble or damaged relationships read on for some tips on how to make this characteristic work to your advantage.
Some people who are blunt, speak their mind, are perceived as rude and irritating. Others get the reputation of being frank and honest. Telling the truth, being extremely straightforward, comes with risks. Holding back on information makes people question your honesty.
It is hard to trust people who won’t give you a straight answer.
Being too cautious about what you say can lead to never really giving anyone an answer to their questions. Those folks who do not respond to others statements may think they are avoiding conflict. What they accomplish is to leave everyone wondering what they really think and can they be trusted.
People who change their opinion when they move from person to person do not get trusted. Get clear on what you think and want, then find ways to convey your positions in a consistent manner if you want to be trusted.
Being straightforward about your feelings and beliefs can get you the reputation for honesty if – and only if – you do it correctly.
It is not what you say but how you say it.
Think of this like cleaning the dirt off a fine old wood table. You can use a clean, soft, polishing cloth that contains some cleaner specifically made for that special wood furniture. Or you can use some steel wool. Both will get the dirt off. One leaves it healthy and restored and the other will leave scars in the finish.
If you dislike something, explaining why in calm gentle language, makes your position easier to listen to. If you express yourself in statements laced with profanity or attacks on others you turn your listeners away. Cruel words hurt regardless of the truth of your statements.
Learning to slow down what you are saying so that it comes out the way you mean it is an important skill. You need to learn to prevent collateral damage from the way others may interpret what you said. Much of the poor communication people talk about is the direct result of ambiguous statements that get interpreted in ways the speaker never intended.
There is a right way and a wrong way to convey bad news.
Saying things in a blunt way when it is done in a hurtful manner can result in lasting damage to the relationship. When expressing something that may be hard to hear, concentrate on the other person and how they feel. How would you want someone to tell you that they disagreed with you?
Work on putting yourself in the other person’s place, not on discharging your negative emotions. One technique for expressing disagreements without destroying relationships is called the Sandwich technique. Take a look at the past post describing how this can be an effective way of delivering bad news without harming the other person.
Become comfortable with others disagreeing with you.
Think very carefully about what you believe and why. Become open to other points of view. The people who create the most wreckage with their bluntness are often those who are insecure in their own beliefs.
If you start feeling threatened when others have a different view then there is a possibility that you are shaky in what you believe. If others not agreeing with you is threatening, then work on yourself, not on forcing others to agree with you by yelling louder and attacking their thoughts.
Learn to disagree without attacking the other person.
When you disagree with someone learn to think of this as someone who has a different opinion not someone who is “ignorant” or “stupid.” Calling people names impedes communication. Someone who makes a mistake is not any of the global characteristics people may call them.
One error does not make them “stupid.” Very intelligent people make mistakes. In fact the more you learn and think about the more likely you are to make a mistake. Calling people names or personally attacking them does not make you right or improve your situation.
You and others have the right to be wrong sometimes.
Sometimes you will believe something and later find out that you were wrong. You have the right to be wrong. We all do. Allow that in disagreements others have the right to make mistakes and be wrong from time to time. It is not helpful to believe that someone who is incorrect about something is a “liar.” Allow others to be wrong when they are and let things that are not all that important go.
There is little value in spotting someone else’s errors and pointing them all out. Rather than this being helpful, this can permanently damage a relationship.
People, who grew up in a non-affirming environment, where they were never told they were OK, grow up to be low in “self-esteem.” You do not need to destroy someone else’s self-esteem by pointing out all their flaws. Finding others errors will not do much to elevate your self-esteem. Let it go.
For more on the topic of bluntness and honesty and when it may damage relationships you might also want to look at a past post: Just being honest
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
So how is your bluntness working for you?