The Brutally Honest Truth
We women get a bad rap when we speak honestly.
Being brutally honest will get you in trouble, no matter how insistent the other party was in asking for honesty.
Maybe the word “brutally” is what gets us in trouble. Maybe we can learn to be honest without using a club to draw blood.
It’s taken me some time to learn the best way to share honesty when the truth is going to hurt someone. I admit that in my early days of Lipsticking and Windsor Media Enterprises, I either found ways not to answer questions honestly, because I knew the other person didn’t want to hear the truth, or, I blurted the answer out and was rewarded with shock and sometimes even tearful dismay.
Civilized and Compassionate
It’s often our expertise or our talent that puts us in situations where we need to feed the honesty gremlin.
“I finally wrote it!” she held the book out with a shining smile on her face, clearly delighted at such a great accomplishment.
The first words I thought, but did not say out loud were, “The cover is awful! Who designed it?”
It was awful. The colors were dark, the font almost invisible, the image a blurry representation of the title, which was also terrible.
“How wonderful! I’m so happy you finally did this!” I said, matching her cheerfulness with my own. In my heart, i was being totally honest. I was happy for her.
“Will you read it?” she asked.
I took a breath, looked down at her outstretched hand, swallowed, reached for the proffered book, and gritted my teeth. If the inside was as poorly done as the outside, what would I do?
“Of course,” I said, taking the book and tucking it into my bag. “I can’t promise when I’ll read it, but I will read it.”
She was so happy, her shoulders relaxed, her face shone like a morning sun, and her smile grew ever brighter. “Thank you so much!” she said.
Sometimes No Answer is An Answer
And, so, that story is true. It’s true many times over. I have been the recipient of many new author’s babies. Meaning books, of course.
In my world, silence is an honest, a brutally honest, response to books given to me.
I do not trash badly written books. I have written some poorly formatted or badly expressed content myself. Unless a book is truly sophomoric , I don’t say so. I hold my tongue.
If I read a book that is on the edge, has possibilities, shows me that the author will get better with each new writing she does, I find the good points in the book and I share them. I might offer a suggestion for one of the not so good points. I encourage the author to continue on her hero’s journey and bring me more of her work.
Interestingly, many of the people who have offered me books, sent me books, shoved books into my unwilling hands, never get back to me. It’s sad. But, they are too frightened to hear the truth, to have anyone tell them their baby is ugly, so they move on in a fog, telling themselves one lie after another, because they know the brutally honest truth…and it isn’t good.
Sometimes You Need to Hear the Answer
For authors who are ready for that brutally honest truth, I have great admiration.
I believe I was one, am still one. I accept criticism, I work to improve my writing, and I positively get gushy if someone of import tells me my writing is awful. I mean, they read it. They thought enough to comment on it! Isn’t that awesome?
However the best and most productive way to be ‘brutally’ honest is to remember the other person is… a person. A person with hopes and dreams and desires and expectations, just like you.
When we learn to treat each other with the respect we deserve as human beings, always tempering that brutally honest truth with compassion, we are helping make the world a better place.
I worked recently with a smart, talented young woman who showed great promise in her writing. But, it wasn’t her forte. She was not so much interested in making it better, as she was in just getting her words out to the world.
I loved her attitude - not on writing, that was sad. But on life and on her direction in life.
She turned to video and she is so fabulous at video I am jealous! I do not ever believe I can be as marvelous at video as she is.
And so, I gently tried to teach her how to write better, format her paragraphs and put the right words in the right place, and I didn’t fail so much as I was teaching a bird how to swim when all she wanted to do was fly.
Honestly, You Already Know the Answer, Don’t You?
Rarely are we unaware of what the answer is, when we ask a pointed question.
Is my book good?
How does my hair look?
I know you didn’t want to share my blog post last week, but will you share it this week?
Why aren’t you calling me back?
When we put ourselves out there, asking these questions we already know the answer to, we’re actually setting ourselves up for failure. And that’s a blog post for another day.
Instead of asking questions of which we know the answers, and of which the answers are going to make us cry, learn to ask the right questions.
The right questions involve starting a conversation.
A conversation opens the door to compassionate responses and relationship building.
The right questions aren’t about you, they’re about me (or whomever you’re talking to.)
In due time, your conversation will move around to you and a chance to ask for help.
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