The Pros and Cons of Brutal Honesty

What are the pros and cons of being brutally honest? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Nicolas Cole, Author & Entrepreneur, Inc. Columnist, on Quora:

People say there are two kinds of advice: The kind you should keep to yourself, and the kind you shouldn't give but you give anyway.

The brutally honest answer to this question is that brutal honesty rarely happens. Brutal honesty is sitting at a table with your entire family, extended family cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. Then, Grandpa Gene makes a joke about our having a black president, you say, "Grandpa Gene, that's racist! And your comment stems from a subconscious reaction to a judgment that was formed about seventy years ago, instilled in you by your racist father."

Or, brutal honesty is when your friend eggs you on to go talk to that girl at the bar who is hammered, "Go on, go talk to her! What? What are you scared? What?! Are you a pussy, go speak to her, be a man!" To which you reply, "You are projecting your insecurities onto me right now because you are afraid to go talk to her, out of a fear of rejection, most likely stemming back to your relationship with your mother."

Brutal honesty usually means pointing at someone's shadow--and we, as a society, really, really, really do not like our shadows. We don't want to know about them. We don't want to acknowledge them. We don't want even to know that they're there.

And should you point at someone's shadow whenever you feel like being "brutally honest," and they aren't ready for it, you will most likely be met with anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness, violence, deflection, etc.

Those are the cons.

However, people with whom you have a positive relationship, and if the right moment presents itself, can be open (albeit hesitant) to acknowledge their shadow--but the pros can far outweigh the cons.

The pros to having someone be brutally honest with you is that they can see things you cannot. We are all reflections of each other. That is why we grow with new people we meet. They stretch us and pull us, and reflect new parts of ourselves we wouldn't have known about otherwise.

Being brutally honest with someone, and having someone else be brutally honest with you, is what encourages you to improve and grow yourself. That feedback gives you new things to contemplate, poses questions, and probes at deeply rooted behavior patterns. Brutal honesty, then, is neither a "good" or "bad" thing--it is simply a process in itself. It is "the way," the path that allows for the most growth.

People that stop growing are individuals who decide they can no longer handle brutal honesty. They deny what is being presented in front of them. They cannot hear you, nor do they want to make the effort, because that would mean a disruption in their very secure yet very fragile paradigm.

But the people who, no matter how arduous or scary or vulnerable or frustrating it may be, can handle brutal honesty are the ones who continue along their growth curve. They continue to grow and reinvent themselves because they are always bringing more light and awareness to their "shadow self."

Brutal honesty is neither good nor bad. It is situational. It is a process. And you are open to it, or you are not.

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