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  1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    When to be polite vs. when to be honest

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Lea`Brooks, Feb 10, 2015.

    So some of you know that I have this problem -- I can be very rude without meaning to be.

    My entire life, I was a pushover. I let people do and say whatever they wanted, and I never defended myself. I went along with things I didn't agree with because I wanted to avoid conflict. I was always nice and friendly. I never gave my opinion or said exactly what was on my mind, fearing an argument afterwards.

    However, I'm trying to be more honest. I just don't know the right moments. I find myself wanting to say exactly what's on my mind, even if I know it won't be a popular opinion. I've been getting more and more open with who I am and what I believe in. If someone does or says something stupid, I'm starting to call them out on it. As you can imagine, this doesn't make me the most popular person among my husband's friends.

    I watch the HBO show Girls. And I am very inspired by the main character Hannah. She is able to be herself, but defend herself in a very gentle way without coming off as too rude or abrasive. I've tried to practice this more, but it's difficult for me. Because as soon as someone says something I find offensive, I get an adrenaline rush. And that adrenaline controls me until it passes. I speak without though and often regret it later.

    So what is your take on being polite versus being honest? Do you think honesty is always the best policy? Do you always try to be polite and agreeable, despite disagreeing with someone? Do you try to mix both? Is there a different option? How do you keep your cool when you DO get in an argument?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think honesty is almost always the best policy. I try to give my honest opinion in almost all situations, the exception being where I think being honest will hurt someone's feelings and there is nothing to be gained from it (in other words, if being honest is important in a situation, then I'll be honest even if it hurts someone's feelings, though I try to blunt that effect as much as possible; if it is some inconsequential issue where there is really nothing important to be gained from being honest and that honesty will hurt someone's feelings, I wouldn't be honest).

    I can't really think of any examples where I'd be dishonest about disagreeing over an issue, though. I'm thinking more along the lines of something like parents asking whether you think their kid is beautiful. Of course I'm going to say yes even if the kid is ugly. There are ways to disagree about an issue without hurting someone's feelings or making them feel stupid or put down, so when you disagree with someone that's how you go about it.

    *The foregoing applies to interactions other than anonymous internet forum interactions :)
     
  3. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Honesty should be used only as a means, never an end (with some exceptions listed at the bottom).

    A truly confident person is content with their own knowledge. They don't need to be understood by anyone else.

    So when is it wise to be honest? When you're going to impress other people, that's when!

    The moment "being honest" starts making you unlikeable is the moment it loses it's value(unless you want to be unlikeable.) It sort of becomes an arms race. Your husband's friends start making comments you find stupid. If you don't open your mouth, you get to dislike them but they don't get to dislike you. But if you open your mouth, they get to dislike you, and if you open your mouth without being asked for an opinion first, they get to doubly dislike you! How is it favorable to you to be disliked by your husbands friends?

    Some people admire bluntness, but not all. It's up to you to determine which people are impressed by what, and if it comes down to impressing a few and offending the others, who you want to impress and who you don't mind offending. Honesty is just a means.

    Honesty as an ends only works with mathematicians, scientists, doctors, and philosophers(and only for a certainty when discussing their respective fields ) , family members, bffs, and soul mates.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can be polite and still be honest--or at least be true to yourself and not a doormat. I would recommend, of all things, Judith Martin's Miss Manners books. She treats etiquette as, among other things, a way to be a non-doormat while not getting blood on the furniture. Her books cover a whole lot of material, from what a fish knife is to the rules for wedding gifts, but as you read through you'll find a whole lot about standing up for yourself politely.
     
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  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Unless there is a very good reason to be 'polite', be honest. But in being honest, it might be best to be diplomatic when being honest. Sometimes it's not what you say, it's the way you say it - which is sometimes frustrating because I am as a person pretty blunt. It's just because of where I live, people around my neck of the woods are like that. It's not to be offensive, it's just that sharpness and roughness is part of the vernacular. I live in a rural area.

    I put the word polite in quotation marks in that first sentence because I was raised to think you should always try to be polite until they don't deserve it anymore. This is not the same thing as respect, that's something else.

    I can sometimes be a pushover. Sometimes, I must admit, I am tempted by what was in hindsight an obvious con, but I'm getting better - comes with cynicism.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2015
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  6. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have a tendency to become a pushover because I also hate conflict. Most of them are so pointless anyway. As I've grown older (I'm 26 now), I've learned more about where I stand and what my principles are, so it's easier to stand my ground and state my opinion. However, I tend to weigh whether or not my opinion is worth voicing in a given situation. If I'm dealing with someone who has a tendency to get irrational (can't reason with the type), it's best to not confront them. I also prefer not to embarrass anyone in front of others, so I might state my opinion in private. In my training group, there was a woman like that. A proper besserwisser. Just nod, let her think her opinion is valuable, and then do things your own way. I could've been honest and start arguing, but in that situation it would've led nowhere, and probably had made both of us look like bickering children.

    I was raised to be honest, and it still irks me if people are faux-nice and polite, and then later tell you how much they dislike that person they were just sucking up to. This caused me some distress with my husband's family -- they're lovely people, but sometimes it's like you have to pretend things are better than what they really are and that their suggestions and opinions are great and beyond criticism, or else you'll risk a row of apocalyptic proportions. Conversely, my mom is super honest, not terribly blunt, but she won't play nice and then talk shit behind your back, yet sometimes hearing the truth hurts.
     
  7. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can remember hearing a woman talking about her husband "He'll say what he thinks, offend or please" and thinking what a ***.

    There's no need to be dishonest, but there is, likewise, not need to just say what you want without regard for how offensive it is.

    And the way that you describe yourself as getting "an adrenaline rush" sounds as if you're reacting to the situation aggressively, rather than assertively.
     
  8. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    I make it a habit to avoid those I can't be honest with, 'they who are always right and you are just too stupid to comprehend crowd'. The vague, lightly smiling mask is usually enough. It's a perfect shield, most people aren't going to take the effort to delve beneath it's surface.

    For those who do make the effort to get to know me, honesty is not an issue; it's a must. These are the people I like and respect, I won't lie, but neither will I be cruel. If something bothers me I say something, I'm polite, but I don't let it fester.

    I'm an introvert by nature, social discourse has never been, nor will ever be my forte. I make an art out of being invisible, listening far more than I actually speak. If the subject warrents, I give an honest answer. My problem is that for the most part, I simply don't trust people enough to make effort of extending beyond the first few polite interactions. The first impression is instanteous and usually lasting, a make or break moment that determines if the social mask goes on or not.

    Forums are a little different, I have my keyboard so my words are way more fluid. It's easy to be honest on the boards. Shared ground is easy to find. Opinions, by their very nature will differ, but the barriers of face to face discourse are lowered. There is shelter in anonymity...
     
  9. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Darkkin I'm a lot like you, I think. In my relationships and friendships, I'm always honest, but I'm not mean about it. I try to be as polite as possible, but I do always say what I feel. That's why my current friends and my husband are able to stick around.. lol But it's when I meet new people that I rub them wrong.

    @Shadowfax Everything gives me an adrenaline rush... :p I think I mostly just anticipate anything I say turning into an argument. But more often than not, with someone I don't get along with, I will just spout off at the mouth during my adrenaline rushes without thinking before speaking. But with my friends, I am always careful to think through what I'm going to say first.

    @KaTrian I hate to admit, but I may be one of those nice people who talk bad about people behind their back. :( But not everyone. For example, there is a girl my roommate is trying to date. She's very nice to me, we get along very well. But she's totally leading my roommate on, and it's very hurtful to him, so it's hurtful to me. I find myself liking her less and less because her true colors are coming out. She's still super nice to me, but she treats him like crap. It's not really my place to come forward and tell her how awful she's being. So I just stay quiet and pretend that I don't think she's an evil person. But typically, I'm nice to people who know I don't like them. I'm just polite to keep the peace.

    @123456789 I feel like my husband's friends are a special situation. His best friend has always been extremely pessimistic. He complains about everything, doesn't appreciate what he has, makes fun of everything. When I first got with my husband, I was polite to said friend. I would sit and listen to him complain about everything. I would drive him place because he was too afraid to do it himself. I would watch movies with him and go get food with him. But eventually, it became too much. I can only be around so much negativity before it starts affecting my own mood. So I started distancing myself from him. And his negativity grew. I don't think he knew exactly why I stopped spending so much time with him, but he knew I was avoiding him. So then he started being an even bigger asshole. He would say things, mean and awful things, and do things, like leave my house a wreck, that he knew would upset me. He would bait me to anger, because he knew I wouldn't say anything back to him.

    Until one day I did. That was a day I really gave in to my adrenaline. We didn't talk for a month. And he spread the news of my bitchiness to all of my husband's friends. And it was very apparent to me how much they disliked me right off the bat for no reason. So I started being rude back.

    I guess I kind of misrepresented myself earlier. Most of my husband's friends didn't like me before I started being blunt -- my husband swears it's just because they are unhappy and don't want to lose their best friend to a woman, but who knows? But now they REALLY don't like me, and that's my fault.

    It's harder for me to make NEW friends though. Once I have a friend, we're friends for life. But new friends are hard to make, because I DO believe honesty is the best policy. And sometimes I may say it in the wrong way, but I think it's a little hard for people to grasp sometimes. They want someone who will support their stupid decisions and tell them they're right when they are clearly wrong. And that's just not me. And not very many people appreciate that kind of honesty. I've been told that I'm more mature than most people my age (26), so they assume that's why people find me so abrasive. Who knows though, right?


    Man, this thread is doing nothing for my image... lol
     
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  10. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    tact
    takt/
    noun
    1. adroitness and sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues.
      "the inspector broke the news to me with tact and consideration"
      synonyms: diplomacy, tactfulness, sensitivity, understanding, thoughtfulness, consideration, delicacy, discretion, prudence, judiciousness, subtlety, savoir faire;
      informalsavvy
      "Dr. Porter has a lot to learn about timing and tact"
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Too, when you're dealing with an internet forum of anonymous people who don't know each other, it isn't reasonable for people to have their feelings hurt by some personal crack made by another person on the forums. When you're dealing with people face to face, or in any context where something said could reasonably upset someone, then I think you have to consider carefully whether to say it (and how to say it). There's no reason to use honesty as a cover for doing something you know is likely to hurt someone else.
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Lea`Brooks: Sounds like you've got a good novel in there! ;)
     
  13. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Absolutely right!
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think in most cases being supportive and disagreeing with someone's decisions aren't mutually exclusive. Think of it as with kids, for example. So when my kids messed up, and I thought they were wrong, I didn't say "I can't believe you did that, dumbass." That would be a horrible approach. Instead, I talked to them about it in a supportive way. That didn't mean approving - we discussed why it was a bad decision, but it didn't include just dwelling on why it was a bad decision, but also understanding why they made it, pointing out that all human beings make mistakes, maybe talking about mistakes I made at the same age, and so on. It's a very supportive way to address an action you disagree with, without approving of the action.
     
  15. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, in that case, it's WAR. If they don't even like you, honestly should definitely NOT be an ends with them! Obviously I only know very little of the situation, but might I suggest being very nice to his friends, saying nothing bad, and when they still do not respond well (I'm willing to bet they don't), one day when you're alone with your husband, start crying and ask him (honesty used here as a means) why he allows them to be so disrespectful to his wife when she's so nice to them?

    That is of course only one way to deal with them, but the last thing you want is for THEM to be able to make YOU look like the "annoying wife," especially when they're actually the bad guys!

    Why don't I like fighting bluntness with bluntness? Fighting fire with fire is a stupid expression. You don't put out a fire by giving it more fire, you put the fire out by suffocating it. If your enemy (that's what he is) wants to be a jerk publicly, use it against him. Whatever you do, do not give him ammo to start calling you a jerk, too! And that is just one reason why honesty is bad.

    Edited to add: if life were an 80s/90s family sitcom, you'd be able to sit down with your husband's friend and have an honest heart to heart chat with him, and wallah, problem resolved. Unfortunately, in the real world, you have no idea what kind of twisted perspectives and feelings this guy is harboring, and you cannot rely on honesty to solve the problem
     
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  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If a conversation about these friends brings Lea to tears despite herself, well, that happens. But planning on crying? That sounds extraordinarily manipulative. And so does being nice, rather than coolly civil, with his friends.

    Lea, do you need to spend time with these friends? Does your husband spend a whole lot of time with them? Can you just decline to hang out with them?
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I notice from your profile that you're a woman in Virginia. I'm exposing my prejudices here, but a direct-spoken woman in a Southern state will, I think, have trouble. Even leaving aside women who are, like my mother, bundles of passive-aggressive sweetly poisonous cuteness, there's a strong tendency toward indirect speech in American Southern women, and indirect speech is hard to deal with if it doesn't come naturally. It's not my native tongue, but I seem to be able to speak it as a second language, and so I've often seen the communication problems between people who speak only Indirect--and to whom it's so innate that they don't realize it's indirect--and people who speak only Direct, who can't even figure out what the Indirect speakers are saying.

    I remember a discussion, elseforum, about a woman who asked, "Would you mind turning up the heat?" Some of the women on the forum thought that it would be "more polite" to say something like, "Wow, I sure wish I'd remembered to bring a sweater." And my internal reaction was, "Why? For the love of God, WHY? What is wrong with making a simple request? You're cold. You'd like heat. If for some reason turning up the heat is not an option, OK, fine, you're not going to throw a tantrum. But why the bleeping bleepity bleep can't you ask?!"

    My external reaction was more diplomatic. But I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that forum posters that I'd been reading posts from for years, who were perfectly sensible rational women, thought that the sweater remark was better. In fact, I'm not sure if I realized before that discussion that there is such thing as a non-passive-aggressive Indirect speaker. There is. And that fact annoys me no end, because it means that I can't just condemn the Indirect wholesale. It's annoying to have one's comfortable prejudices undermined.

    One element of the ensuing discussion that I could kind of parse was the apparent belief that making a request ("Would you mind turning up the heat?") was perceived almost as giving an order. Another was that putting someone in a position where they'd have to say "no" was forcing that person to go through intense discomfort, so it's rude to put someone in that position.

    So, to me, the following exchange is perfectly polite:

    "Could you turn up the heat a little?"
    "Oh, I'm sorry; I can't. I'm forcing six dozen tulip bulbs and they'll be ruined if it gets too warm in here. Would you like to borrow a sweater?"

    But to an Indirect speaker the request apparently felt, emotionally, as like:

    "Hop to it and up the damn heat! I'm freezing! What kind of host are you?! Get up! Get up and turn the heat up NOW!"

    And the person declining feels as if they're saying:

    "No! NO! I don't give a bleeping bleep about your comfort! NOOOOO!"

    Or...something. I said that I can only translate Indirect; I'm still not a native speaker.

    So what was my point? Ah, yes. I wonder if you might have more luck finding friends if you keep a close eye out for women who speak more directly, or for men who are with women who speak more directly. I don't mean listening for fights, I mean things like:

    "Let's go to Golden Palace for dinner."
    instead of
    "I don't know, honey, where would you like to go?"

    ... I was going to come up with three or four more examples, but my brain gave out. But you see what I mean?

    Edited to add: I left out part of what I was saying. The Indirect speakers felt that the indirect speech would always have the result of making things sweeter and more diplomatic. They couldn't seem to absorb the idea that to a Direct speaker, "I wish I'd brought a sweater" is not a request. There was discussion like:

    Me: "But what if the host doesn't realize that the person wants the heat turned up?
    Them: "Well, if he doesn't want to turn it up, he doesn't have to. But he doesn't have to say no. Doesn't that make it nicer?"
    Me: "No. I mean, what if he'd be perfectly happy to turn it up, but he doesn't understand that any request is on the table. He doesn't know that the person wants the heat turned up. Because the person didn't actually ask."
    Them: "I don't think I understand what you mean. They asked, by mentioning the sweater. If he doesn't want to turn it up, well, they might think that's a little rude of him, but that's his choice."
    Me: (Head explodes)
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2015
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  18. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ChickenFreak That sounds extraordinarily ridiculous.. lol I don't think I've ever met someone who speaks that way before, and thank goodness for it! I wouldn't know how to handle myself if asking something so simple as turning up the heat could be considered rude.

    I'm actually a transplant in Virginia. I used to live in Illinois by St. Louis. But my husband was born and raised in Virginia, so I moved here to be with him. I actually didn't consider that people may speak differently here. Maybe that's part of why I am the way that I am. lol In Illinois, I'm so used to people just being blunt, saying what they mean, meaning what they say, that sort of thing. But here, it is very much polite to the face, rude behind your back. My husband's mother is like that. Fortunately though, my husband doesn't get along well with his mother, so I'm not the only one who can't be around her for long periods of time. :p

    As for his friends, no, we don't hang out with them much. And my husband always gives me the option of not going when he wants to do something with them. He understands that I don't like them and doesn't blame me for it. They haven't been as rude recently, with our wedding just happening and whatnot. But I'm sure it will get bad again in no time! lol
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey! I spent half my childhood in St. Louis. And the other half in Tennessee. That's probably why I'm Direct/Indirect bilingual. I definitely bet that you're running into Direct/Indirect issues and just not recognizing them as such, because you weren't raised speaking Indirect.

    I meant to add:

    Ah, but would you know if if you're with people who speak that way? :) Or have people in Virginia been talking about sweaters and you didn't realize that they wanted heat? Or, you know, the equivalent, on a variety of topics.
     
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