The (very) fat line between 'bluntness' and 'brashness'.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I have come across an interesting set of people, who lay claim to being blunt (truth be told, I have at times in the past been one of such persons). The hall-mark of this self-acclaimed label is that the individual is able to fling the ‘truth’ about other persons or situations without fear or favour, or consideration of the effects. The merits regarding the exact nature of what constitutes ‘truth’ is not questioned, rather, the fact that it is just said is celebrated.

Lately however, it appears to me that the bluntness bug has bitten in too deep, and is being carried too far. What some folks now term as ‘bluntness’ is nothing other than sheer impudence. At its best, it is unnecessary incivility.

For example, I recently went out with some acquaintances for an evening out. In the course of table chit-chat, one of the guys in the group told a lady beside him quite loudly, “You’re just plain fat”. To be fair on him, I’m not exactly sure of the context of the discussion, as the both of them had been talking in relatively low tones before his outburst. But with his statement came an immediate and awkward hush at the table, and the recipient of the remark seemed like she wanted to melt inside.

Everyone’s faces at the table expressed varying levels of disbelief. As if in defense of unspoken criticism, he gushed on about how he is a naturally blunt person, and tends to just ‘state the truth as it is’ (why could he not just shut up??).

At that point, we all seemed to have recovered from the five stages of disbelief-shock-anger-wanting to punch him-wanting to punch him some more-and reacting. Another lady at the table graciously pasted the most amazing smile I have ever seen, turned to him and asked him sweetly, ‘What if I pointed out to you that you are just plain ugly?’

He opened his eyes in plain bewilderment, as though he was either shocked at the merit of her statement, or the fact that she had the effrontery to point it out, or a combination of both. In order to clear his seeming doubt, she further asked him ‘Or do you think you are not?’ Before he could answer that, she casually concluded with ‘Oh well, I know ugliness lies in the eyes of the beholder. To me though, you are just plain ugly. That’s my blunt truth’.

I couldn’t help the laughter that erupted from within me, and everyone else at the table followed suit. While this eased to tension at the table, suffice to say after that subsequent chit-chat was not as casual as before, and the evening itself had somewhat been ruined.

But this encounter got me musing: when did ‘being blunt’ become a license to being uncouth and stupid? My understanding of bluntness is being able to point out certain facts when the need arises, without sacrificing the part of our brain in which wisdom is harboured. In ‘being blunt’, wisdom can still be applied, as neither is exclusive of the other.

If one needed advice on their weight, instead of simply using derogatory adjectives such as ‘fat’, why not let the person know that they would benefit from eating healthier and losing some weight? The message is maturely passed, but without unnecessarily hurting the recipient of the message. I do not buy into that fallacy of sticks and stones being the only things that can break bones…blah…blah. Words hurt, no matter how fleeting, and the damage done cannot be cloaked with the self-righteous screen of ‘truth’ or ‘bluntness’.

I think it is better to keep judgmental ‘bluntness’ to one’s self where her/his opinion is not sought, bearing in mind that certain concepts such as ‘fat’ ‘ugly’ ‘beautiful’ etc. are not entirely objective, and are most times subjective. So what to you is the blunt truth, to someone else may be pure mischief. Even where the opinion is sought, it is an act of maturity and wisdom to share such bluntness in a way that makes the recipient less defensive and more willing to actually accept the message. You gain respect on two grounds: being truthful and being constructive.

Let’s all try a little bit more sensitivity, and practice combining being blunt with being wise. Paz.


P.s.If you like the 'quippings' of my busy mind, just click the G+1 button under my bio, or after this post. And you'll get a sneak peak any time I ruminate here.

Disclaimer: The picture used does not belong to me, but is taken from Google.

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  1. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmh ok lesson learnt

  2. I think, some people do not know where to draw the line btw bluntness and plain stupidity! there are instances where you say things the way they are cos the situation warrants that. While there are times you pass your message across without being harsh and stupid! you assume the popular "sandwich approach".

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