Is It Better To Be Polite Or Honest?

Have you ever heard those words? ‘To be honest….’ Normally they are the precursor to someone saying something bad about something or someone. It could be about you…

‘To be honest (usually a pause) your bum looks huge in that dress’

It could be about how you present yourself…

‘To be honest you were rubbish…’

The phrase ‘to be honest’ is our way of trying, politely, to tell somebody something that we think that they ought to know. It could be that our motive is built good intention. That is because we know that what we about to say may offend or even hurt the other person.

Is it better to be polite and to say what you know, or think you know the other person wants to hear. Or to be honest and say what you actually think or feel?

‘Wow, that dress really shows your bum off. It looks very round in that dress’

To be honest (just used that phrase) I think that in many ways we have all become politically too correct. Often the words that come out of our mouths do not reflect what is going in our head.

I am a big fan of kindness. To be kind to others makes for a happier world. There are times when being polite is not kind. If your bum does look awful in that dress you might actually need to know it so that you can do something about it to make your situation better. But how will you ever know if no one has the honesty to tell you how it is? Politeness can equal dishonesty.

It’s not what you say it is the way that you say it

A diplomat is someone who can address difficult issues honestly without offending he person they are talking to.

It is actually possible to be diplomatic, honest and kind.

Honest feedback is an art form. Most of my life I have run self development courses. They all include feedback sessions from the other group members. ‘The way I experience you is….’ That might feel a it scary is twenty people tell you how they experience you to be. In reality the feedback is a gift.
I am biased about myself, we all are. Life experiences have created my self image. My self image maybe positive or negative. Honest, kind feedback from others challenges my own stereotype and enables me to grow as a person either by accepting things that I deny or developing things that I need.

On the courses I joke that ‘I see myself as six foot bronzed and muscular’. Most people laugh because I am actually five foot six, small and skinny. So then we reach the decision point. Do we act politely and go along with my delusion and all act like I am a hunk. Or does someone explain to me that I am not actually like that and I ten have to face up to something?

When we see politeness and honesty as feedback it is a useful tool for self development. We can then learn. As long as the feedback is done with kindness it is of great help to us. And that is the point.

Politeness is of no use if it is not honest
Honesty is of no use if it is not polite
The thing that puts power into both politeness and honesty is kindness

You could say that honesty with kindness is true politeness.

Take care

Sean x

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