Honesty + Kindness
As a team, we recently completed a book club discussion of Mark Manson’s, “The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck. For those who haven’t read it or are unfamiliar with Manson’s work, I offer you a review from another best-selling author, Steve Kamb, which is found on the back cover of the book, “This book hits you like a much-needed slap in the face from your best friend: hilarious, vulgar, and immensely thought-provoking.”
Manson doesn’t hold back in any part of the text which led to many interesting conversations amongst our group, one of which occurred during our final dialogue. A fervent traveler, Manson compares interactions he experienced while in Russia to those commonly encountered in the United States. He describes a “bluntness” and “frankness” evident in his Russian conversations, that although initially uncomfortable, he came to appreciate. He then goes on to explain how he is brutally honest with his wife and expects the same from her in return. He admits that “[his] ego gets bruised sometimes” but in the end “she makes [him] a better person.”
Manson calls this kind of talk “unadulterated expression.”
The realist in me appreciates this honesty in a conversation. I want to know the truth; let’s just say what needs to be said and not sugar coat it. However, the thought of my husband telling me I look like crap (a much nicer word than Manson typically uses) after spending hours getting ready, likely wouldn’t end in a pleasant evening for anyone. So, then I wonder, is honesty always the best policy? Is it worth saying something if you know it’s going to be hurtful?
When this question was presented to our group, our fearless leader, Ritch, encouraged us to consider the combination of honesty plus kindness. As the old saying goes, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. With everything going on in the world right now, I’m seeing the importance of this statement not just in conversations with our spouses, but in all of our relationships and interactions.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’re aware that 2020 hasn’t been a stellar year for most. Between sickness, quarantine, social injustice, and political unrest, people are having a difficult time. A difficult time in how to feel, what to think, how to act, what to do. While some keep relatively quiet on current events, others have chosen to speak out (or “type out”) about their thoughts and feelings. This sharing of information and opinions can be both educational and inspirational, but it can also be something else: derogative and hurtful.
It seems lately that anyone voicing their opinion, whether verbally or written, ends up being “attacked” by someone with opposing views. That’s why I found it not only surprising, but extremely refreshing to read a cordial interaction between two people discussing differing views on a current “hot button” issue. “Wow, am I still on Facebook?!?!” I thought to myself when I read the interaction. But then I thought, “Wow, how disappointing is that?”—to be surprised by people having a pleasant conversation despite the fact they were likely never going to agree. Perhaps I’m alone in these types of thoughts—to be honest, I really wish I was—but I’m guessing I’m not. Because of this, I’m asking you to join me in remembering: it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Yes, honesty is extremely important. Never speaking the truth because you’re too afraid you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings is not the way to go; however, you can speak honestly with kindness and consideration for others. I appreciate these words from Albert Schweitzer: “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”
As a parent I often hear, help your child be “the kind kid.” But what about the kind adult? We all have the power to choose kindness (and model it for the younger generation). Manson chooses to use aggressive language to stir emotions, incite conversation, and sell books. I hope through choosing my words thoughtfully and respectfully, while being open and honest, I can encourage others to do the same, and together we can all spread a little more kindness into the world.
Bekah Finch, Detail Specialist at ULEAD